Dooplaya Situation Update: Kyone Doh Township, August to October 2011
This report includes a situation update submitted to KHRG in January 2011 by a villager describing events occurring in Dooplaya District, during the period between August and October, 2011. The villager who wrote this report provides information concerning increasing military activity in Kyone Doh Township, including the confiscation of 600 acres of farmland for building a camp in Da Lee Kyo Waing town by Border Guard Battalion #1021, and the construction of new military camps, one by LIB #208 in Htee Poo Than village and another by the KPF near to Htee Poo Than village. The villager who wrote this report also noted demands from the Burmese Army that local villagers cover half of the cost of the construction of two bridges in Kyone Doh Township, as well as ongoing taxation demands from various armed groups, including the KNU, SPDC, Border Guard, DKBA, KPF, KPC and a distinct branch of the KPC known as Kaung Baung Hpyoo, and expressed serious concerns about the intended use of villagers to provide unpaid labour on infrastructure projects that will be implemented by civilian and military officials, as well as the severe degradation of forest and agricultural land due to an expansion of commercial rubber plantations.
Situation Update | Kyone Doh Township, Dooplaya District (August to October 2011)
The following situation update was written by a villager in Dooplaya 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.
From August to October 2011, I was in the campaign area [where Tatmadaw forces are fighting to gain control] in Kyone Doh Township and some other villages. I have found out about the villagers’ situation there. I also found out that the villagers have suffered rights abuses by armed groups such as the SPDC Army [Tatmadaw], the Border Guard, the KPF [Karen Peace Force], the KPC [Karen Peace Council], and the KPC (Khaung Baung Hpyoo). I summarized all of these and described their activities below.
SPDC/Border Guard activity
In the campaign area in Kyone Doh Township, Battalion Deputy Commander Nay Myo Aung of SPDC LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] #208,Column #2, under the control of LID [Light Infantry Division] #22, came and built a front line military camp in Htee Poo Than. He kept Hpyo Win Aung as the [Htee Poo Than] Camp Commander, with 70 soldiers. In southern Kya In [Township], Camp Commander Htun Lin Aung from LIB #230, under the control of MOC #12, was promoted to Than Htun’s position of military police officer at the military police station. Column Commander Aung Kyaw Myint of IB [Infantry Battalion] #231 has 40 soldiers, and if it is needed, the Column Commander of LIB #205, Column #2, under the control of LID #22, can come and provide reinforcements. [This has been the situation since] June 7th 2011.
On May 28th 2011, Battalion Deputy Commander Khyit Than Oo of LIB #546, Column #2, moved [to Htee Poo Than]. On September 16th 2011, LIB #547 went [to the camp of IB #231] and made a contingency plan. They moved to the military camp and police station to the south-west of Kyaun Na Kwa [village]. In the west [of Kyone Doh Township], the army commander from Kyaik Ma Raw [city] went with 30 soldiers to Kyon Kwan, Hpa Thain, Wa Hpyan Kone and Ma Yin Kone [villages].
The KPF built a military camp to the south of Man Th’Raw and Aung Khyan Tha [villages], which are next to Htee Poo Than village in the south-west [of Kyone Doh Township]. Battalion Commander Saw Aeh Kyay is the leader. He collects taxes from [the produce of] villagers’ gardens, coal, phone services and other services as well.
Border Guard activity
Border Guard Battalion #1021 has taken 600 acres of farmland and now they are preparing to build a battalion camp at No Lone in Da Lee Kyo Waing [village], heading straight east from Kyon Kwan and Hpa Thian villages. Battalion Commander Saw Ba Lu and Deputy Commander Man Win Maung and their soldiers collect the taxes, and when it is needed, they also ask for loh ah pay.
This group hasn’t built their camp yet. When it is needed, crowds of people will meet at their headquarters in Hto Kaw Ko [to do forced labour]. After they have done this, they will come back to their homes and do their work. They do not have any special activities. The leaders have weapons and walkie-talkies and use those for their own business.
KPC(Kaung Baung Hpyoo)activity
They have not begun building a camp yet. They have some weapons and some walkie-talkies. In some villages, there are no special activities yet. They live in their own houses and go about their own business. They do not pay any taxes, except to their own group, and they do not go for loh ah pay. They only believe in and worship a hermit called Hpu Baung.
The people are only focused on the agricultural work which they do to survive on a daily basis. This year, we are faced with fewer trees, bamboo, and [materials for making] thatch shingles. It is because people in Da Lee Kyo Waing are developing and increasing the number of rubber plantations.
The people who work on, develop, and buy rubber plantations are not from this province. This includes the people who work on the rubber plantations. For poor people, the space [land] that they have to obtain thatch shingles, firewood, fence posts, bamboo, wood for building houses, and other housing materials, as well as to graze animals, such as buffalo and cows, is getting smaller. Farmers face many difficulties because of this. As a result, some of the people have sold their buffalos and cows and left Burma for Thailand [to look] for work. Some people have got a good job and a high salary so they can send money to their families for paying taxes, and buying housing materials and things like rice.
In Kyone Doh Township, the KNU [Karen National Union], SPDC, Border Guard, DKBA [Democratic Karen Buddhist Army], KPF, KPC, and KPC (Khaung Baung Hpyoo) demand taxes [from villagers], and the villagers also have to pay for health care, education, religion and other needs as well. For a person who is poor, it is really hard to get enough food each day.
When the SPDC governor develops the village, they do it indirectly, for example by using religion [as an excuse for their demands for money]. When they begin building the bridge and repairing the roads, they will not only demand [villagers for] loh ah pay, but also that the public pays half of the cost of the cement and nails. The village governors want to build a road from Kyaun Na Kwa to Kyon Kwan, Hpa Thain and Mi K’Thay villages so that vehicles are able to travel there. The village governor submitted the plan to the people who are in charge of Nay Pyi Daw development. After that, the people in charge of development came and measured the distance of the road. The Nay Pyi Daw development group gave half of the costs towards building the road and the public has to give the other half.
On September 11th 2011, some village governors and monks from Htee Poo Than, Th’Main Dut, Khu Nee and Laung Kaing villages had to go to the Kawkareik Township Governor’s office for a meeting. The Kawkareik Township Governor, Officer U Aung Myint, said in the meeting that the national government will give half of the cost towards rebuilding the bridge on the old bpay t’ya[cement] vehicle road between southern Kya In village, southern Kya In [Township],to Meh Tharaw Hta (Aung Chan Tha) village. If the Township doesn’t accept half of the costs, the national governor will give it to another Township, so the Township Governor called the Village Governors for a meeting to find out their opinion.
Therefore, the [Kyone Doh] Township Governor, the Village Governors and the monks have to discuss this again. They will give their answer after discussing it. If they are going to build the bridge, the villagers will have to do <em>loh ah pay</em> for the two bridges that have been under construction since 2001. Some people said that the SPDC came and measured the distance of the road and were going to build the bridge in 2006, and that they will now build the Asia Road where this existing road is.
Even though some of the public in this area use modern medicine, some villagers still use herbal medicine and the practice of wrist tying to call back their spirits. When their sickness gets a little better, they just use herbal medicines because they don’t have money to buy medicine.
P’yaw ga hsa ya gaing, shway kyaw gaing [shaman] from some villages have certificates recognising their status from the SPDC. Even though they have nurses on the [Thai-Burma] border, they don’t have enough medicine. Patients who have serious diseases must therefore go to the hospital in the city. Once they get to the hospital in the city, they might spend at least one million kyat (US $1,298.70). If they do not have that amount of money, they cannot go. Patients who do not have that amount of money are just treated by herbal doctors. Some patients recover and some die. The nurses who go from village to village to treat patients without certification from the SPDC also have to worry about meeting the SPDC Army. If they meet them, the nurses will be accused of being Kaw Thoo Lei people. The diseases that commonly occur here are hypertension, malaria, lethargy, abdominal distension, diarrheal disease, ringworm, scabies and heart disease. The [medical organization censored for security] goes to each village twice a year, and treats patients without payment.
Even though people from the villages prioritise education, there are rarely any parents who can send their children to school to finish all ten standards. Some villages have a school, but do not have enough school stationery or teachers. If it is not an SPDC school, the teachers do not to dare teach openly. If it is not a school that is recognized by the SPDC legally, when a [Tatmadaw] column arrives, they will accuse it of being a Kaw Thoo Lei School. The teachers also worry about being arrested so they have to accept the government teachers.
The students’ parents have to take responsibility for things such as food costs, health care, transportation, and accommodation for the government teachers who come and teach at the school. The government teachers teach only once for two or three months, and they go back to the city for training. They come back after a month. So, the students fall behind in their studies as their lessons are late, and they can be disqualified. Some teachers get 50,000 kyat from the government (US $64.94), but some receive only 30,000 kyat (US $38.96). Later, they found out that government took the other 20,000 kyat (US $25.97). School stationery is actually given to the students for free but the government collects money from them. When they get 20,000 kyat from the students, they pay the teachers only 30,000 kyat. For independent teachers [not sent by the Burma government], the students’ parents give them 40 to 50 baskets of paddy (836 kg. / 1843.2 lb. or 1045 kg. / 2304 lb.) a year. Most of the students who finish middle school move to the refugee camps on the border [in Thailand]. If they were to go to school in the city, it would cost at least 1.5 or 2 million kyat (US $1,948.05 or 2,597.40). Their parents cannot send them to school anymore, so they move to Thailand to work. In those places, the [education organization censored for security] supplies school stationery such notebooks, textbooks and sports materials once a year for free.
For the next generation living in the campaign area, Kyone Doh Township will have fewer trees, bamboo, and [materials for making] thatch shingles. It will be really hot and there will be a shortage of water. The production of paddy will decrease and the farmland that people cannot cultivate will increase [as the soil becomes infertile]. They will be faced with paddy shortages in the future. This is because the wood comes from the only forest that we have to depend on, in Da Lee Kyo Waing, and the other forests have almost gone. There are also many problems between the sellers and the customers regarding the sale of the wood that is left.
Even though the KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army], SPDC, DKBA, Border Guard, KPF, KPC, and KPC (Khaung Baung Hpyoo) armies are living in those areas [in Kyone Doh Township] and it is getting a little complicated, the conditions are still good. When there are more armies in the area, we can imagine the problems that the villagers will face.
When the SPDC military government wants to build a bridge or a road, they give excuses relating to religion and ask the public to give half of the costs. Moreover, the public also has to do loh ah pay while they are building it. After the bridge is built, the SPDC military government stands in front of the public with the fake golden star hanging above their shoulders. They take a photo and put it proudly in the newspaper. It looks like sinty shay tway yat nay thaw kaythara chin thay yoht sinty bp’ to bpo yaik yu th’ ket tho [literally, a lion sitting at the entrance of a pagoda having its picture taken].
If after building this bridge,for example, they rebuild the Asia road here, it will be easier for [the Tatmadaw to increase] security, the transportation of ammunitions, its influence in the area, rations and other needed machinery. I can imagine that the public will face more accusations, killing, fleeing, and looting, and it will be a time when they will be called often to do loh ah pay.
 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.
 In Karen, the Burmese phrases Na Ah Pa(SPDC) and Na Wa Ta (SLORC) are commonly used to refer to the Burmese government or to Burma’s state army, the Tatmadaw. Many older Karen villagers who were accustomed to using the phrase Na Wa Ta (SLORC) before 1997 continue to use that phrase, even though the SLORC has not officially existed since 1997. Similarly, despite the official dissolution of the SPDC in March 2011, many Karen villagers continue to use the phrase Na Ah Pa (SPDC) to refer to the Burmese government or to the Tatmadaw; see: "Mission Accomplished as SPDC ‘dissolved’," Myanmar Times, April 4-10th 2011. The term Na Ah Pa was used by the villager who wrote this report and "SPDC" is therefore retained in the translation of this report.
 The Karen Peace Force (KPF) was formed in February 1997 after splitting from the KNU/KNLA, and 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 KPF into the Tatmadaw Border Guard, substantial elements reformed into Tatmadaw Border Guard battalions in 2010. See Mizzima Election 2010 Factsheet: KPF. However, follow-up information provided in March 2012 by the same villager who wrote this report confirmed that the branch of the KPF referred to in this report did not transform into Tatmadaw Border Guard and remains independent.
 The KNU/KNLA Peace Council (also called the Karen Peace Council or KPC) is an armed group based in Hto Kaw Ko, T’Nay Hsah Township, Pa'an District, which split from the Karen National Union (KNU) in 2007 under the command of Htay Maung and subsequently refused to comply with orders from the then-SPDC government to transform its forces into the Tatmadaw Border Guard; see: "KNU/KNLA Peace Council," Mizzima News, June 7th 2010 and "KPC to be outlawed if it rejects BGF," Burma News International, August 30th 2010.
 Kaung Baung Hpyoo is a branch of the KPC formed after Htay Maung, the leader of the KPC, made a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese Government in 2007. Kaung Baung Hpyoo is headed by Hpu Baung and aims to practice its own type of animist religion, Ta La Koo. They have one army battalion with around 150 soldiers, led by Battalion Commander Aung Soe.
 The confiscation of farmland for the purposes of military expansion is a pressing issue at present in Dooplaya District. In September 2011, approximately 500 acres of land was confiscated from villagers in Je--- village, Kawkareik Township in order to construct an army camp for Border Guard Battalion #1022, see: "Land confiscation threatens villagers' livelihoods in Dooplaya District," KHRG, October 2011.
 Loh ah pay; a Burmese term now commonly used in reference to forced labour, although traditionally referring to voluntary service for temples or the local community, not military or state projects.
 The Asian Highway is a United Nations Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific-supported project which aims to link 31 countries in Asia across 140,497 kilometres of roadway. In Burma the project has involved land confiscation and forced labour. For more information about the Asian Highway, see "Tollgates upon tollgates: En route with extortion along the Asian Highway," KHRG, October 2009; Development by Decree: The politics of poverty and control in Karen State, KHRG, April 2007, p.25-26.
 ‘Wrist tying’ refers here to a cultural practice whereby the wrist is bound with white thread in order to rid the individual of spirits which are believed to be the cause of their illness.
 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 March 16th 2012, this unofficial rate of exchange was US $1 = 770 kyat . This figure is used for all calculations above.
 Both the researcher conducting the interview and the interviewee used the term ‘Kaw Thoo Lei’, which refers to Karen State as demarcated by the Karen National Union (KNU). The exact meaning and origin of the term ‘Kaw Thoo Lei’ is disputed; see: Jonathan Falla. True Love and Bartolomew: Rebels on the Burmese border, Cambridge University Press: 1991.
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