Forced Labour and the DKBA in T'Nay Hsah Township, Pa'an District


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Forced Labour and the DKBA in T'Nay Hsah Township, Pa'an District

Published date:
Monday, February 21, 2005

As SPDC and DKBA units in Pa'an District use the SPDC-KNU informal ceasefire as cover to entrench their positions and build up their weapons supplies, villagers in southeastern Pa'an District face forced labour as porters and forced conscription into the DKBA.

Much of the fighting between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has stopped in T'Nay Hsah township of Pa'an District, but this has not resulted in much improvement in the lives of the villagers in the area.  Instead, the DKBA and SPDC have been using the opportunity to strengthen their positions in the area.  DKBA and SPDC troops have been building and repairing roads and stocking up on rations and ammunition for a possible resumption of hostilities.  The labour needed for the roads and the portering has been provided local villagers under the orders of SPDC and DKBA officers.  The DKBA in the area has also been conscripting villagers into its ranks.

SPDC Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #101 of Light Infantry Division (LID) #77 together with DKBA Battalion #3 of #999 Brigade forced villagers from the village tracts of Kaw Pway, Kaw Toh, Noh T'Pweh, Htee Kywa, Kaw Nyeh, Toh Kaw Ko and Noh Htee Leh to carry supplies for them non-stop between March 11 th 2004 and November 20 th 2004.  Village heads in this area indicated to a KHRG researcher that they felt that forced labour like this would increase in the coming years.  They went on to say that the labour was so much that the villagers were not free to do their own work, although they could hire other people to go in their place.

Colonel Maung Chit Thu, the commander of the #999 Brigade Special Battalion, has been using the time since the ceasefire began in January 2004 to build up his strength and consolidate his control over T'Nay Hsah township.  Villagers have had to carry baskets containing cooking pots, bullets, rice and landmines to his various camps throughout the area.  Villagers from the village tracts of Loh Baw, Thay Doh Kwee, Kyaw Ko, Ker Ghaw, Htee Wa Blaw, Htee Sa Ra, Meh Pleh and Kway Shan were forced by the Special Battalion to work on a road between Meh Pleh and Kway Shan villages.  Six villagers from each of the villages in the eight village tracts had to go and work on it three times each month.  Work on the road began on May 7 th 2004.  Villagers who did not want to go to work on the road could pay 1,000 Kyat to get out of the labour.

Maung Chit Thu has also continued to conscript villagers into his battalion.  He has ordered that three villagers from each village tract in his area which encompasses T'Nay Hsah township and parts of Ta Greh township would have to become soldiers.  Each village tract had to pay 30,000 Kyat for each villager who did not want to become a soldier.  Maung Chit Thu then had photos taken of the three people from each village tract who joined his battalion and sold the photos.  He forced each house in every village in T'Nay Hsah township to buy a photograph for 1,000 Kyat each.  A villager from Loh Baw village tract told a KHRG researcher,

"We must buy it.  After we bought it we had to hang it in the front of the house.  Maung Chit Thu is going to come around and see it and if he doesn't see the photo in the front of the house, the owner must pay 5,000 Kyat because the house owner didn't buy one and hang it up."