Human rights abuses and obstacles to protection: Conditions for civilians amidst ongoing conflict in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts
Amidst ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw and armed groups in eastern Dooplaya and Pa'an districts, civilians, aid workers and soldiers from state and non-state armies continue to report a variety of human rights abuses and security concerns for civilians in areas adjacent to Thailand's Tak Province, including: functionally indiscriminate mortar and small arms fire; landmines; arbitrary arrest and detention; sexual violence; and forced portering. Conflict and these conflict-related abuses have displaced thousands of civilians, more than 8,000 of whom are currently taking refuge in discreet hiding places in Thailand. This has interrupted education for thousands of children across eastern Dooplaya and Pa'an districts. The agricultural cycle for farmers has also been severely disrupted; many villagers have been prevented from completing their harvests of beans, corn and paddy crops, portending long-term threats to food security. Due to concerns about food security and disruption to children's education, as well as villagers' continuing need to protect themselves and their families from conflict and conflict-related abuse, temporary but consistent access to refuge in Thailand remains vital until villagers feel safe to return home. Even after return, food support will likely be necessary until disrupted agricultural activities can be resumed and civilians can again support themselves.
More than two months after major clashes on November 8th and 9th 2010 in the large towns of Myawaddy and Three Pagodas Pass, on the Thailand-Burma border, conflict between Burma's state army, the Tatmadaw, and non-state armed groups continues. Exchanges of small arms fire and shelling are being reported daily as the number of groups fighting the Tatmadaw in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts increases. Civilians, meanwhile continue to be deeply affected by the conflict and conflict-related human rights abuses. Groups of refugees have criss-crossed the Thailand-Burma border on a daily basis over the past two months, often entering Thailand's Mae Hong Song, Tak and Kanchanaburi provinces in small groups but sometimes in single-day influxes as large as 1,000 civilians. As of January 10th 2011, more than 8,663 recently displaced civilians were seeking refuge in Tak Province alone.
In many cases, the Royal Thai Army (RTA) has gone to considerable lengths to facilitate refuge for civilians fleeing while shelling or gunfire is immediately audible. In many other cases, however, refugees, community members supporting them and staff from international and national organisations have described the RTA repeatedly obstructing refugees as they have attempted to enter Thailand, and coercing refugees to return to Burma in spite of significant threats to the security and human rights of civilians amid the current conflict and increasingly militarised climate across Dooplaya and Pa'an districts.
This field report details incidents in which refugees attempting to access refuge in Thailand have been obstructed or prevented from doing so. It also enumerates human rights concerns that have been expressed by civilians in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts, including: functionally indiscriminate mortar and small arms fire; landmines; arbitrary arrest and detention; sexual violence; and forced portering.
Information for this report is based upon 40 brief Displacement Monitoring updates published to the KHRG website between December 3rd 2010 and January 19th 2011, as well as additional information that has not yet been published. This report also draws upon more than 19 audio-recorded interviews conducted since November 30th 2010, 11 of which are included in an Appendix to this report. This report is also informed by additional formal and informal interviews, which were not recorded for security reasons, as well as ongoing communication and coordination with community members and international organisations providing support to recently displaced civilians seeking refuge in Thailand. Input from Tatmadaw deserters and active and inactive soldiers from non-state armed groups including the DKBA, Karen National Union / Karen National Liberation Army (KNU / KNLA) and All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) was also solicited in an attempt to establish clear indicators of how long conflict can be expected to continue in eastern Dooplaya and Pa'an districts.
Assessing the likelihood of continued conflict
The current conflict began when a breakaway faction of the DKBA, under the control of Na Kha Mway, refused orders to transform into a Tatmadaw-controlled Border Guard Force and entered Myawaddy Town, Pa'an District on November 7th 2010, during voting for Burma's first election in 20 years. Clashes on November 8th and 9th 2010 initially caused at least 20,000 people to flee to Thailand from eastern Pa'an and Dooplaya districts. More than 12,000 people sought refuge in Mae Sot, opposite Myawaddy on the Thai side of the Moei River; 10,000 sought refuge on the Thai side of Three Pagodas Pass Town, opposite Kanchanburi Province, and another 2,500 attempted to find refuge in areas of Tak Province opposite the large village of Waw Lay, then headquarters of Na Kha Mway's forces. These refugees – the largest influx into Thailand in 25 years – were largely able to access refuge at temporary sites in Thailand.
Fighting has continued in the weeks since, and the DKBA, as well as other armed groups including the KNLA and ABSDF, continue to engage the Tatmadaw in open conflict. Following the reported execution of six soldiers from the Karen National Union / Karen National Liberation – Peace Council (KNU / KNLA-PC), it is widely assumed that the KNU / KNLA-PC will soon join, or has already, joined the conflict. A number of ceasefire negotiations between the various parties have not succeeded in ending or reducing hostilities. Though the conflict no longer features large battles in major towns, frequent skirmishes, shelling and guerrilla style attacks are occurring daily throughout areas opposite Thailand's Tak and Kanchanaburi provinces. Small arms and mortar fire continues to be audible from Thailand, with shells and bullets sometimes straying into immediately adjacent areas of Thailand.
Although the Tatmadaw is southeast Asia's second-largest army, after two months it has not been able to establish control of currently contested areas in eastern Dooplaya or Pa'an districts. Tatmadaw deserters interviewed by KHRG have, for example, described the Tatmadaw struggling to supply units deployed to the frontlines and suffering heavy casualties. In interviews with KHRG on January 11th 2011, for example, Tatmadaw deserters described the difficulties faced by their units while operating in eastern Dooplaya:
In public statements on Burmese and English language news channels, meanwhile, officers from non-state armed groups have made firm commitments to continue fighting. "We are to continue fighting until there is independence and rights for ethnic people," DKBA Major Saw P--- told the Democratic Voice of Burma on January 18th 2011, "we will continue with this fight until the end, until the people are free." On January 19th 2011, KHRG interviewed a recently defected former DKBA commander from Brigade #999 who made the following predictions as to whether the current conflict had the potential to continue:
Speaking to KHRG on January 20th 2011, a representative from the KNU also confirmed that he thought fighting would continue, because the Tatmadaw are currently increasing troop numbers and have sent 50 trucks from the Southeast Command to Chaw N'Kwa, Kya In Seik Gyi and Kyaikdon, and an additional ten trucks to Myawaddy from southern Kawkareik Township. The KNU representative also stressed the manner in which guerrilla tactics might level the playing field for armed groups engaging in hostilities with numerically superior Tatmadaw forces, particularly in rural areas: "We have our soldiers to cut off their rations. In the city, we can't enter and use guerrilla tactics but we attack them as guerrillas in the countryside. In the countryside, we mark [hunt] them like game animals but we can't mark [hunt] them like game animals in the city."
KHRG has also spoken to representatives from other armed groups that are party to the current conflict. On January 17th 2011, a representative from ABSDF affirmed that the DKBA would continue to oppose the Tatmadaw in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts:
Human rights abuses committed against civilians in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts
Functionally indiscriminate mortar and small arms fire and landmines
Civilians across a wide geographic region of eastern Dooplaya and Pa'an districts continue to be at risk from conflict and conflict-related abuse. In the last two months, KHRG has documented incidents of civilians injured by shots fired during engagements between armed parties to the conflict, often due to extensive and functionally indiscriminate use of mortars and small arms. Tatmadaw deserters have confirmed that firing indiscriminately, without regard for civilian casualties, is part of basic Tatmadaw military training.
In a separate incident reported to KHRG, Tatmadaw soldiers fired weapons in a functionally indiscriminate manner and issued threats to villagers suggesting that civilians would be intentionally fired upon in the future. Local sources told KHRG that on December 14th 2010, between 30 to 40 Tatmadaw soldiers entered Waw Lay village and forced four civilians to lie on the ground at gunpoint. The sources reported that the soldiers kicked one civilian when he raised his head, shot their guns at the buildings in the village, and told them that, in the future, if any soldier saw more than two villagers walking together, they would be shot without questioning.
The risk to civilians has indeed been exacerbated in recent months by the possibility that civilians might be deliberately targeted in reprisal attacks, including the destruction of homes, or entire villages, in retaliation for attacks against an armed party to the conflict. On January 11th 2011, for example, a Tatmadaw deserter confirmed that troops in his unit operating in the Way Lay area had been ordered to burn homes or shoot civilians as a response to attacks by the DKBA or KNLA:
Such practices entailing grave threats to the physical security of civilians have severely impacted villagers' ability to move freely between refuge sites and their fields and agricultural work places. The use of landmines by all parties to the current conflict further undermines villagers' efforts to protect themselves, their property and their livelihoods. In the first week of December, residents of Waw Lay village told KHRG that DKBA soldiers had warned them only to travel along main roads, and avoid small pathways, because DKBA forces had placed landmines in areas they suspected that Tatmadaw soldiers might travel.
The use of landmines by armed groups party to the present conflict restricts villagers' movements and so has inhibited strategic temporary displacement, an effective strategy employed by many villagers to protect themselves and their families from threats to their human rights and security. If villagers warned to avoid small pathways wish to travel securely, they must travel on main roads and risk encountering Tatmadaw soldiers, an eventuality entailing further serious human rights and physical security risks. Furthermore, the use of landmines inhibits villagers' ability to protect themselves, by limiting potential routes for civilians to flee from conflict areas. On December 12th 2010, for example a villager fleeing shelling in the Manerplaw area of Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District stepped on a landmine and was injured in his right leg and thigh.
Reported military casualties due to landmines also reinforce the grave threat that landmines pose to the physical security of civilians, since anti-personnel mines are inherently indiscriminate weapons and armed hostilities, including the laying of landmines, continue to occur in what are essentially civilian areas: villages, agricultural areas, paths and roadways. While all parties to the conflict have used pressure-detonated anti-personnel mines in the recent past, it is important to note that reports thus far have primarily detailed the use of bpoh klee 'tortoise shell' remote-detonated mines, which pose less of a risk to civilians.
Arbitrary arrest, detention and torture
Since the current conflict in Dooplaya District began on November 7th 2010, civilians in eastern Kawkareik Township, as well as those currently seeking refuge in Thailand, have reported concerns related to civilians being arrested and accused of connections to non-state armed groups. Immediately following fighting in Myawaddy and Three Pagodas Pass towns on November 8th and 9th, KHRG reported the arrest of suspected DKBA family members and those with actual connections to the DKBA. In the subsequent months, increasing suspicion between Tatmadaw forces and civilians in eastern Kawkareik Township has resulted in a number of incidents of arbitrary arrest, detention and confiscation of property. The majority of incidents reported to KHRG consist of accusations against civilians framed in terms of suspected contact with non-state armed groups. For example, the Tatmadaw has confiscated mobile phones that they suspect are being used to contact the DKBA and most arrests are justified with accusations that the detainee is or has had contact with a DKBA soldier.
However, incidents have also occurred that appear to be as much punishment for Tatmadaw embarrassment or frustration as active attempts to gather intelligence. For example, after DKBA forces shelled Tatmadaw soldiers based near the Waw Lay monastery, on December 6th 2010, Tatmadaw soldiers demanded residents who remained in the village to tell them where the DKBA was based and threatened them with their guns. Similarly, on December 20th 2010, following an incident in which a Thai police officer had illegally crossed into Burma and evaded capture by Tatmadaw soldiers under the command of Sergeant Pounc Shi Pounc, in Nyah Peh Htah village, Kawkareik Township, the Tatmadaw soldiers interrogated villagers about undocumented border crossings in the area, after which they arrested six civilians, including the village head and a pick-up truck driver, and confiscated three tractors and a pick-up truck. The civilians arrested were forced to transport military supplies for Tatmadaw troops, and the pick-up truck driver was hit with a gun by one Tatmadaw soldier when the confiscated truck failed to start.
Incidents reported to KHRG have also been confirmed by Tatmadaw deserters interviewed by KHRG.
Incidents of detention reported in the last two months have been characterised by interrogation, threats of physical abuse and actual physical abuse including methods of torture including beatings, the use of stress positions and prolonged exposure the sun. Civilians have reported being arbitrarily detained at private homes, interrogated and threatened with guns. Detention periods have ranged from a couple hours to eleven days.
The incident described above involved G---, a resident of Waw Lay village, who was arrested on suspicion of being a DKBA soldier after he had been drinking alcohol with several soldiers from LIB #409. He told KHRG that he had been detained, interrogated, beaten, forced to lie in the sun for an hour a day and handcuffed in stress positions for a total of eleven days, before he was released.
Physical abuse of civilians arrested by the Tatmadaw also occurred during a separate incident on December 20th 2010, in which five adult civilians and one 13-year-old child transporting logs from the riverbank in Waw Lay village were arrested when they failed to describe concordant destinations for the logs. They were then forced to maintain stress positions for one hour, squatting in the midday sun with their hands behind their heads, before being released. The villagers detained at that time told KHRG that the Tatmadaw soldiers who arrested them appeared to be intoxicated. Tatmadaw deserters have also confirmed similar incidents.
Women interviewed by KHRG in the last two months have described fears of sexual violence committed by Tatmadaw soldiers operating in eastern Dooplaya and Pa'an Districts. Incidents of rape by individuals from state or non-state armed groups in eastern Burma tend most often to occur in villages near army bases or temporary camps, consequent to a region's militarization. A lack of accountability for perpetrators, particularly from the Tatmadaw, heightens the risk of incidents of sexual violence in recently-militarized zones of conflict.
Recently-displaced women face additional risks, because they may become isolated during flight, or because a family missing a female relative may take longer to register alarm, assuming that she has been displaced to another location.
Confirming these fears and underlining the current threat of sexual violence that women in Dooplaya and Pa'an are facing, on December 22nd 2010, a KHRG volunteer researcher verified reports from Waw Lay villagers seeking refuge at unofficial sites in Thailand's Phop Phra District that the dead body of an unidentified naked woman had been discovered close to the Waw Lay village school. Local community groups active in the Waw Lay village area also confirmed this discovery, as well as the discovery of a second woman's body. These groups also reported that both women had been raped. The KHRG researcher, who photographed the body, also reported that the woman appeared to be between the ages of 20 to 30 years old, but could not make a more detailed estimate as her body had already begun decomposing and had become unrecognisable.
On January 11th 2011, KHRG interviewed a Tatmadaw deserter from a unit deployed in the Waw Lay area, who confirmed that Officer Soe Than, from LIB #202 and three other soldiers from his battalion had raped and killed two women in the Waw Lay area. Below is an extended quote from the soldier describing this incident:
Forced portering and forced labour
Specific incidents of forced portering, in which local civilians were arrested and forced to porter rations, water, military equipment and injured Tatmadaw soldiers, have been reported across Kawkareik Township in the last two months. Villagers fleeing to Thailand have, from the moment conflict began in Myawaddy during November, been reporting fears of being forced to porter equipment as one of their primary human rights concerns.
These fears are consistent with other incidents of forced portering documented by KHRG across eastern Burma. Villagers are often used by Tatmadaw forces to address difficulties in supplying troops created by lack of developed transport infrastructure, where soldiers are seen as too valuable to expend on portering tasks, or in areas where transport by road may be dangerous due to the threat of vehicle landmines or ambush by the DKBA or KNLA.
Tatmadaw deserters from the current conflict in Dooplaya have confirmed that the practice of forcibly recruiting villagers to porter for the military is ongoing. These deserters report that, in response to DKBA and KNLA efforts to disrupt the transportation of rations and supplies to Tatmadaw troops, particularly those based at camps in the Waw Lay area, Tatmadaw officers have been actively encouraging soldiers to forcibly recruit villagers to porter military supplies.
The degree to which Tatmadaw officers rely on civilian porters is indicated by an incident in which, the day before trucks of rations that would need transport began arriving, Tatmadaw officers attempted to persuade villagers hiding in Thailand to return home. On December 31st 2010, Tatmadaw officers based in Palu village called a meeting with village heads and religious leaders from Palu Pa Doh and Palu Poe villages at the Palu Poe middle school. Local sources told KHRG that there were three Tatmadaw officers at the meeting, however the villagers in attendance did not know the officers' names or ranks, because they did not introduce themselves and were not in uniform. The local sources told KHRG that, during the meeting, the Tatmadaw officers said that the village heads and the religious leaders needed to arrange for Palu residents who were still hiding on the Thailand side of the Moei River to return to their villages.
The next day, on January 1st 2011 at around 3:00 pm, seven Tatmadaw trucks, carrying approximately 400 Tatmadaw soldiers, arrived in Maw Hto T'Lay village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District from Myawaddy Town, Pa'an District. These trucks then arrived in Palu Poe village on January 2nd 2011 at around 12:30 pm. Local sources in the area believed that the reinforcements were intended to provide extra security for Tatmadaw trucks carrying rations to soldiers based to the south, in and around Waw Lay village. The Tatmadaw has struggled to resupply soldiers in the Waw Lay area and, given these difficulties, it is likely that the officers hoped to use returning civilians as porters, or as cover in the hopes that their presence might moderate attacks by the DKBA or KNLA.
Despite the officers' entreaties, the village heads refused to organize the return of their villagers:
As the number of Tatmadaw troops in eastern Dooplaya and Pa'an districts has increased, so too has the risk of forced portering. In early December, for example. villagers began reporting that they expected the threat of forced portering to increase in the near future. Throughout the month of December, KHRG documented a number of incidents of villagers arrested and forced to porter which are illustrative of difficulties currently faced by villagers.
On December 9th 2010, for example, Saw Pe---, a resident of Palu village, told KHRG that on December 8th 2010, three villagers had been arrested by Tatmadaw troops at a plantation near Palu Bpa Doh (Big Palu). He told KHRG that he had spoken with these three villagers when they returned to the village on the morning of the 10th and that they had been ordered to help to carry two wounded Tatmadaw soldiers to the Tatmadaw camp at T'La Ee Thee Hta. These villagers told Saw Pe--- that they had seen several more wounded soldiers on the way, and therefore suspected that more villagers would be arrested soon to carry the Tatmadaw casualties.
Further north in the Manerplaw area of Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District, villagers seeking refuge in Thailand's Mae Sariang District told relief workers that the existence of injured Tatmadaw soldiers at a camp near their village was resulting in villagers being taken to porter.
Similarly, in other incidents of forced portering, between at least December 2nd – 6th 2010, villagers in Gk'Neh Lay village were forced to carry water for cooking and bathing to a Tatmadaw camp on elevated ground two hours away on foot every day. Residents of Gk'Neh Lay reported that portering continued to be a serious concern on December 16th 2010 and, for that reason, many villagers were avoiding the village and sleeping in forested areas near their agricultural work places instead.
Also on December 16th 2010, 40 residents of Min Let Bpaing village were seized and forced to porter rations for approximately 70 – 100 Tatmadaw troops based at Sweh Daw Gone artillery camp near Taw Gkaw Gyo. Sweh Daw Gone is about four hours on foot from Min Let Bpaing village.
Further south, in the Waw Lay village area, on December 5th 2010, Naw P---, 40, from X village, told KHRG that she had seen a Tatmadaw unit pass by her house accompanied by a male villager who was being forced to porter equipment for the soldiers. She told KHRG that a larger unit had passed through earlier the same day and her neighbours had seen three other civilians portering things for the soldiers. Naw P--- said she and others in her area assumed that the men had been seized while working on their fields outside the village.
Long and short term implications for livelihoods
The ongoing conflict in Dooplaya and Pa'an Districts has severely disrupted agricultural activities during a critical harvest period. Many villagers have employed creative strategies to monitor the military situation and return to agricultural work places when it was deemed safe to do so, in order to balance the need to protect their crops, livelihoods and property with the need to protect themselves and their families from conflict and conflict-related abuse. In the last two months, KHRG documented examples of villagers sleeping in their field huts or in forested areas near their fields and plantations, in order to remove themselves from the immediate conflict zone, while maintaining proximity to agricultural workplaces. Similarly, when shelling occurred on December 21st 2010 in Palu village, many villagers fled from the fields and plantations where they were working and hid in their houses, but they did not flee Palu village. Many villagers who employed temporary displacement cited the urgency of completing the harvest as one of their main reasons for returning to, or indeed remaining in, Burma.
However, throughout the month of December, villagers repeatedly told KHRG that, despite the urgency of completing the harvest, fears relating specifically to physical danger from shelling and forced portering were preventing them from returning to work in their fields and plantations in Burma. KHRG documented injuries to civilians when mortars landed in agricultural work places; Saw H---, for example, a Gk'Neh Lay villager, suffered a leg injury when shells landed in the bean plantation in which he was working on December 14th 2010.
Villagers have also been seized as porters by Tatmadaw soldiers who arrested them as they were working in their fields. In the following excerpt, Saw Pe--- describes one such incident:
Through December, fears of portering and physical injury prolonged displacement for many villagers and disrupted their harvest, for which there is only a short window of opportunity for certain bean, corn and paddy crops. As displacement continued, many villagers expressed concerns that they would not be able to complete their harvest.
Field and plantation owners also recorded their inability to hire labourers willing to risk working in Dooplaya and Pa'an Districts. The high wages many owners were offering in mid-December to those willing to work reflected the urgency of completing the harvest at that time, and local villagers perception of risk.
For these reasons, extended displacement, coupled with fears of portering and physical injury, has meant that many villagers have been unable to complete their harvests. Disruption to normal agricultural activities was exacerbated by unseasonable rains on December 14th and 15th 2010, which resulted in villagers who had fled fighting near their homes and agricultural work places being unable to protect newly harvested crops from the rain. As a result, some newly harvested paddy crops sprouted, ruining those crops.
The window of opportunity for harvest, including for most paddy crops, has now closed. Some villagers are facing food security concerns and long-term impacts on their livelihoods looking ahead to the next planting season, as their ability to repay debts incurred this season has been compromised by the loss of all or part of their harvest.
The next juncture in the agricultural cycle at which some villagers may be able to reap a harvest will not be for three months time. In the meantime, some villagers who have not completed their harvest due to the current conflict will seek daily paid work in Thailand or incur debt in order to feed their families. The continuing instability of the current situation means that many will be looking for strategies to offset difficulties they may face if hostilities in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts continue. A KHRG researcher who lives in the area in Dooplaya District discusses the current situation for many villagers displaced by fighting in the following quote:
KHRG has documented widespread disruption to children's education across eastern Dooplaya and Pa'an districts during the last two months. According to three community-based education organizations, there are a total of 24 schools in the affected area of Kawkareik Township. As of January 17th 2011, at least 18 were closed and those that continued to operate were doing so with only 50% of their students; at a minimum, 3,700 students are currently impacted.
Displaced villagers, meanwhile, have reported struggles to address disruptions to their children's education. While some families have been able to send their children to other nearby schools that remain open, or set up ad hoc schools run at unofficial refuge sites in Thailand , these solutions are not sufficient to address the educational needs of the large number of children displaced by the conflict. The result has been that children hiding along with their families to avoid refoulement have faced particular obstacles in accessing education and preventing interruptions to their schooling.
Displacement and obstacles to refuge
Fighting and conflict-related abuses have resulted in the displacement of thousands of civilians from eastern Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, and Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District. Many, though not all, of these civilians have sought refuge in Thailand. As of January 10th 2011, 8,663 civilians were hiding at unofficial sites in Thailand, including all or nearly-all the residents of the large villages of Waw Lay, Palu and Kyo Gk'Lee, formerly home to approximately 2,500, 2,000 and 600 civilians respectively.
While both civilian and military authorities from Thailand have repeatedly gone to great lengths to facilitate refuge for civilians fleeing to Tak Province, the RTA in particular has presented severe and repeated obstacles to refuge. On November 30th 2010, KHRG published detailed accounts of incidents of refoulement occurring that month. Since then, this practice has continued, though KHRG has not been able to document every incident. These incidents, and others not documented by KHRG, have prompted strong statements from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and, on December 28th 2010, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The most recent incident documented by KHRG took place on January 13th 2011 at around 8:30 am, when uniformed soldiers from the RTA burnt down temporary shelters at an unofficial refuge site in Oo Kreh Htah, Phop Phra District, where 436 villagers from Kawkareik Township had been staying.
The next day, community members supporting the refugees confirmed that many of the 436 villagers who were staying at the Oo Kreh Htah site before it was burned were continuing to hide in discreet locations in Thailand's Phop Phra District, rather than return to their homes.
On December 25th 2010, RTA soldiers forced approximately 300 villagers from 13 households that had fled fighting in Manerplaw on December 11th 2010 to leave a temporary site in Mu Yoo Hta, Mae Sariang District. As of January 7th 2011, most of these villagers were continuing to seek refuge at hiding sites on both sides of the Moei River in Thailand and in Burma in the area of upper Ht--- in Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District. The same day, RTA soldiers forced 226 civilians at a temporary site opposite Waw Lay village to abandon the site, prompting a strong statement from UNHCR.
Below is a table showing 20 incidents reported to KHRG during the month of December that concern displacement and obstacles to refuge as a result of the current military situation in Dooplaya and Pa'an Districts. Note that this information should be taken as illustrative of the difficulties that civilians currently face; it is not intended to be a comprehensive list of all incidents of displacement and obstacles to refuge.
The ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw and armed groups in eastern Dooplaya and Pa'an districts is not subsiding but rather, with forces on both sides augmenting or maintaining current troop strength, there are signs that the region affected by the current military situation will expand, as will civilian populations currently threatened by human rights abuses attendant to the military conflict. Civilians continue to face serious risks to their human rights and security. As such they have a legitimate claim to refuge in Thailand and must be permitted to continue to exercise this claim effectively and as may be required. Due to pressing concerns about food security, disruption to children's education and civilians' continuing, and expanding, need to protect themselves and their families from conflict and conflict-related abuse, it remains vital that temporary but consistent access to refuge in Thailand continues to be provided. Until villagers feel safe to return home and can resume disrupted agricultural activities in order to again support themselves, it is likely that food support will be necessary going forward in the current unstable military climate.
 For more on the origins of the current conflict and the transformation of DKBA troops into Border Guard Force battalions, see "Protection concerns expressed by civilians amidst conflict in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts", KHRG, November 2010.
 "Burma Army retreats from Karen flashpoint," Democratic Voice of Burma, December 2010
 The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Ko A--- is available as an Appendix to this report.
 The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Saw W--- is available as an Appendix to this report.
 The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Saw F--- is available as an Appendix to this report.
 "Protection concerns expressed by civilians amidst conflict in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts", KHRG, November 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update No. 42: "Arbitrary arrest, detention and confiscation of property in the Waw Lay village area", KHRG, January 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update No. 46: "Physical abuse during interrogation and extended detention of civilian from Waw Lay", KHRG, January 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update No. 36: "Arbitrary arrest in Waw Lay village and execution in Meh K'Ner village", KHRG, January 2010
 Dignity in the Shadow of Oppression: The abuse and agency of Karen women under militarization, KHRG, November, 2006, pp. 47 – 48
 Appendix to "Protection concerns expressed by civilians amidst conflict in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts", KHRG, November 2010
 The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Saw F--- is available as an Appendix to this report.
 For more on forced labour and forced portering by civilians in eastern Burma, see "Shouldering the burden of militarization: SPDC, DKBA and KPF order documents and forced labour since September 2006," KHRG, September 2007
 Saw Pe--- is likely referring to the Tatmadaw practice of using convicts pressed from prisons to carry equipment during military operations. For more on this practice, see Less than Human: Convict Porters in the 2005 - 2006 Northern Karen State Offensive, KHRG, August 2006.
 The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Saw Pe--- is available as an Appendix to this report.
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update 23: "Fears of portering prolong displacement, disrupt the harvest in Waw Lay," KHRG, December 2010; "Villagers flee to avoid fighting and portering: conflict continues to impact civilians in Dooplaya District," KHRG, December 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update 26: "Villagers at risk from landmines, shelling and portering in Gk'Neh Lay village," KHRG, December 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update 23: "Fighting and displacement in the Waw Lay and Palu areas," KHRG, December 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update 26: "Villagers at risk from landmines, shelling and portering in Gk'Neh Lay village," KHRG, December 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update 21: "Fears of portering prolong displacement, disrupt harvest in Palu village," KHRG, December 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update 25: "Threats and displacement continue to disrupt the harvest in Waw Lay," KHRG, December 2010
 The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Naw P--- is available as an Appendix to this report.
 The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Saw E--- is available as an Appendix to this report.
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update No. 27: "Providing education amidst conflict and displacement in Thay Baw Boh," KHRG, December 2010
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update No. 44: "Palu villagers hiding in Thailand respond to interruptions in schooling," KHRG, January 2010
 "Threats to human rights, obstacles to protection: Conditions for civilians seeking refuge in Phop Phra district," Thailand, KHRG, November 2010
 "Thailand again sullies its human rights record", The Bangkok Post, January 2010
 "Refugees treated like 'ping pong balls'", Democratic Voice of Burma, December 2010
 "UNHCR urges Thailand against forced returns to Myanmar," UNHCR, December 2010. Note that, while the UNHCR statement notes 166 civilians forced to leave the site in Waw Lay, a headcount by other humanitarian organizations at the site noted 226 villagers.
 KHRG Displacement Monitoring Update No. 47: "Thai Army burns temporary refuge site, forces villagers fleeing fighting deeper into hiding," KHRG, December 2010
 "UNHCR urges Thailand against forced returns to Myanmar," UNHCR, December 2010. Note that, while the UNHCR statement notes 166 civilians forced to leave the site in Waw Lay, a headcount by other humanitarian organizations at the site noted 226 villagers present on the morning of December 25th 2010.
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