Pa'an Situation Update: T'Nay Hsah Township, September 2011
This report includes a situation update submitted to KHRG in October 2011 by a villager describing events occurring in Pa’an District, in the period between September and October 2011. Villagers in T’Nay Hsah Township are reported to be subject to demands for forced labour by Border Guard Battalion #1017, specifically to work on Battalion Commander Saw Dih Dih’s own plantations. Information is also provided on an incident that occurred in T’Nay Hsah Township in which the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Battalion #101’s temporary camp in Kler Law Seh village was attacked with heavy weapons by Border Guard Battalions #1017 and #1019, and by Tatmadaw Light Infantry Division (LID) #22. Since the takeover of the KNLA Battalion #101 camp by Border Guard troops, villagers in T’Nay Hseh Township have experienced an increase in demands for forced labour such as portering, as well as demands for villagers to cook at the Border Guard base and to serve as soldiers in the Border Guard, with payment demanded in lieu of military service. Such abuses are also described in the report, "Pa'an Situation Update: September 2011", published by KHRG on October 24th 2011, and "Pa'an Situation Update: September 2011 to January 2012", published by KHRG on May 2nd 2012. Border Guard troops have also embarked on the extensive laying of landmines near Th--- village, including near villagers' fields, and one villager was reported to have been seriously injured by a landmine whilst serving as a soldier in the Border Guard. Villagers are said to be concerned about the potential impact of the landmines on the welfare of their livestock, with one villager reportedly confronting a Border Guard soldier over this issue.
Situation Update | T'Nay Hsah Township, Pa’an District (September to October 2011)
The following situation update was written by a villager in Pa’an 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 received along with other information from Pa’an District, comprising one interview.
I would like to report some information about Tatmadaw Border Guard Battalion [#1017] Commander Saw Dih Dih who ordered people to do forced labour. He has corn and peanut plantations around Shan Shan, Meh Bp’Leh, and Htee Wah Blaw [villages], and around Za Ya Phyu hill. He has plantations but he does not work on them by himself. He has ordered villagers [from T'Nay Hsah Township] to do forced labour from the beginning [the initial planting of the crops] in the plantations until the end [the harvest]. He always orders people to do forced labour.
For the personal benefit of running a business, you gentlemen may consider whether ordering the public to do forced labour is a good process or a bad process. What do you gentlemen think? In my opinion, this is a completely bad process. A few days ago, a soldier who is under the control of Battalion Commander Saw Dih Dih said [to the villagers], "You come and work because the Battalion Commander [Saw Dih Dih] will pay you, so you will get pocket money to buy betelnuts." A group of people who had done forced labour said [to the soldier], "How could we get money? We haven’t been paid any money even though we have worked for many days. Did the Battalion Commander tell you that he hires us?" [The soldier replied that] he does hire them and pays them money.
Thereafter, those people who have suffered from doing the forced labour have suspected that the Battalion Commander was hiring them to do work for pay. The villagers are afraid of the village head and they do not dare to ask them or say anything about the matter. They just discussed it in secret. This means that if the Battalion Commander hired them, the money must be in the village head’s hands. The village head just planned this as part of a strategy to make money. The village head probably does not want to pay them [the villagers] the money. She obtained this money through corrupt means.
The village head did not, however, refuse to do anything that the Battalion Commander ordered her to do. They [Border Guard soldiers] always order villagers to do things. Villagers always suffer as a result of doing forced labour. There is nowhere to run to and no place to avoid it. In fact, villagers are faced with difficulties and poverty. It is not fair for them to have to deal with these difficulties and this poverty. I assume that this [forced labour] was a very bad experience for the villagers. This information was reported by a young person in Myawaddy Township.
A villager from Th--- wrote to tell me about incidents that took place between September and October . The incident took place at 8:45 am on September 21st 2011, in T’Nay Hsah Township. Border Guard Battalions #1017 and #1019, and Burmese [Army] LID [Light Infantry Division] #22 joined together, and numbering 300 soldiers, attacked [Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)] Battalion #101’s temporary camp in Kler Law Seh village. They put four heavy weapons into position, comprising two 81 mm and two 60 mm mortars, in Sh--- village. Later they attacked KNLA Battalion #101’s base on September 21st 2011, from 8:45 am to 10:00 am. At the end of the battle, they took over KNLA Battalion #101’s camp. Since then, Border Guard soldiers have ordered Th--- villagers to do forced labour, such as portering food and ammunition [ongoing as of October 12th 2012]. At least five people have to cook rice for them each day, and people who do not dare to go have to hire people [other villagers] who do. They have to hire people for three days at a time by paying them 20,000 kyat (US $24.45).
Now, Border Guard soldiers have begun to plant landmines on the hilltops, in the forest, and at the bottom of the mountains close to villagers’ flat fields, as the flat fields are close to the bottom of the mountains. They have planted landmines in places and along paths where KNLA soldiers could travel easily. One soldier [from the Border Guard] said that they will be allowed to go back [to their base] after they have finished planting 500 landmines. A villager said to him, "If you plant 500 landmines, will they hit [KNLA] soldiers? They will hit villagers." The soldier replied that he had no idea, but said that this was the order from [Battalion Commanders] Dih Dih and Maung Chit Thu, and there was nothing else that we could do. On October 4th 2011, a 28-year-old [Th---] villager named Saw L--- who had been hired by people [other villagers] for two years [to serve in the Border Guard] stepped on one of the Border Guard soldiers’ landmines. One of his legs was blown off. One villager said that the landmines planted by the Border Guard would mostly hit cows, buffalos, dogs and goats. If you do not believe this, wait and see.
 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 order to increase the transparency of KHRG methodology and more directly communicate the experiences and perspectives of villagers in eastern Burma, KHRG aims to make all field information received available on the KHRG website once it has been processed and translated, subject only to security considerations. As companion to this, a redesigned website will be released in 2012. In the meantime, KHRG’s most recently-published field information from Pa’an District can be found in the Report, "Pa'an Situation Update: September 2011 to January 2012," KHRG, May 2012.
 In Burmese, "betelnut" and "betel leaf" are referred to as "konywet" and "konthih," as if they are from the same plant. The Burmese names are also commonly used by Karen language speakers. "Betel nut" is the seed from an Areca Palm tree, areca catechu; "Betel leaf" is the leaf of the Piper betel vine, belonging to the piperaceae family. See "Attacks on cardamom plantations, detention and forced labour in Toungoo District," KHRG, May 2010.
 As of May 4th 2012, all conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on a rate of 818 kyat to US $1. This reflects new measures taken by Burma's central bank on April 2nd 2012 to initiate a managed float of the kyat, thus replacing the previous fixed rate of 6.5 kyat to US $1.
 Maung Chit Thu was the operations commander of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Battalion #999, prior to the DKBA transformation into the Tatmadaw Border Guard, which began in September 2010. Although he accepted this transformation, his current position in the Border Guard remains unclear, and he has been variously described as a high-level advisor and an operations commander. Other abuses committed by Maung Chit Thu have been cited in previous KHRG reports, including ordering the forcible relocation of villagers from eight villages in Lu Pleh Township in July 2011 whilst acting as a Border Guard commander, see, "Pa'an Situation Update: June to August 2011," KHRG October 2011. For more information on the DKBA / Border Guard transformation, see, for example: "Border Guard Forces of South-East Command formed in Paingkyon of Kayin State," New Light of Myanmar, August 22nd 2010; and "Border Guard Force formed at Atwinkwinkalay region, Myawady Township, Kayin State," New Light of Myanmar, August 25th 2010.
|All images and reports © Karen Human Rights Group||Top|