Displacement Monitoring: Regular updates on protection concerns for villagers in Dooplaya District and Tak Province

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Displacement Monitoring: Regular updates on protection concerns for villagers in Dooplaya District and Tak Province

Published date:
Thursday, January 6, 2011

Civilians in Dooplaya District continue to be impacted by conflict between the Tatmadaw and armed Karen groups, who have increased fighting since November 7th 2010. The situation remains highly unstable and civilians report a variety of human rights and security concerns related to ongoing conflict and conflict-related abuse. In order to provide as current information as possible on the fighting and related protection concerns, KHRG will post to this page immediate situation updates that are not posted in the regular news bulletin, field report, map and photo gallery sections of the KHRG website. All new updates and reports regarding the situation for civilians in Dooplaya will also be accessible through the new 'Displacement Monitoring' section of the KHRG website.

Update No.45: January 7th 2010 - 4:50 pm

Thai Army sends 65 villagers back to Burma from temporary site at Mu Yoo Hta on Christmas Day

On December 22nd 2010, KHRG reported that 65 villagers from 13 households in Noh Day village, Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District, had fled the Manerplaw area on December 11th 2010. These villagers initially sought refuge near Mu Yoo Hta, at the confluence of the Moei and Mu Yoo rivers, Mae Sariang District, Mae Hong Song Province, Thailand. At that time, KHRG interviewed Saw F---, a relief worker at the Mae La Oo refugee camp, who reported that these villagers had fled the Manerplaw area because the Tatmadaw soldiers based at Hseh Preh Gkyo [Hill] camp near Noh Day village were forcing villagers to stay at the camp to porter water, cook and carry injured Tatmadaw soldiers.

Update No.44: January 6th 2010 - 3:50 pm

Palu villagers hiding in Thailand respond to interruptions in schooling

Villagers from the Palu area continue to seek refuge in Thailand due to ongoing conflict between the DKBA and the Tatmadaw since the breakdown of attempted 'peace talks' between the DKBA and the Tatmadaw in Palu on November 26th 2010. Some communities in eastern Dooplaya District who are threatened by the continuing conflict between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups, including the Palu villagers who are seeking temporary unofficial refuge in Thailand's Phop Phra District, have told KHRG researchers that they have made arrangements to avoid interruption to their children's education. A photo for this update is available on the KHRG Displacement Monitoring Photo Gallery.

Update No.43: January 6th 2010 - 11:40 pm

Tatmadaw officers urge villagers seeking refuge in Thailand to return to Palu village as 400 additional Tatmadaw troops deployed to the area

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. According to local sources, 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. One of the village heads responded that they had tried to arrange for the villagers to come back, but that the villagers do not dare to come back because they are afraid of ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups in the area, and associated threats to their physical security and human rights.

"In the meeting one of the village heads, named Saw C---, replied to the officers and said that even though we're village heads, we can't arrange to return the villagers who are hiding. He also told the SPDC [Tatmadaw officers]: 'As you are the government, it's up to and in your hands. You can organize the villagers to return.' The SPDC also said that the villagers could come back to their villages and dig holes under the houses for their security so that, when the fighting happens, they won't need to run to Thailand and can hide in the holes that they dig."

- Saw T--- (42, male), Pa Lu Pa Doh village (January 3rd 2010)

The sources that spoke with KHRG said that, in response to Saw T---, one of the Tatmadaw officers said that the Tatmadaw, the village heads and the religious leaders attending the meeting needed to try to work together for the villagers to return.

KHRG also received reports that on January 1st 2011 at around 3:00 pm, the day after this meeting took place, seven Tatmadaw trucks 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. According to local sources in Palu Poe village, the seven trucks carried approximately 400 Tatmadaw soldiers; the sources believed that these soldiers were going to Waw Lay village in order to provide extra security for Tatmadaw trucks carrying rations to soldiers based in and around Waw Lay village. The local sources also told KHRG they had heard that, if the Tatmadaw is unable to send the rations through to resupply troops deployed around Waw Lay village, some Thai businessmen are planning to cooperate with Royal Thai Army soldiers to sell rations across the border to the Tatmadaw soldiers currently based in Waw Lay.

Update No.42: January 6th 2010 - 11:20 am

Arbitrary arrest, detention and confiscation of property in the Waw Lay village area

On December 20th 2010, KHRG researchers reported three separate incidents of arbitrary arrest, detention and confiscation of property in the area around Waw Lay village, Kawkareik Township. The first incident was reported by Saw T---, 16, a resident of Waw Lay village, who told a KHRG researcher that, on December 13th 2010, he had been arrested by Tatmadaw soldiers in Section 1 of Waw Lay. Saw T--- told KHRG that he had been helping Saw D---, 20; Saw A---, 30; Saw N---, 18; and Saw J---, 30, four other villagers to carry wood from an area near the bank of the Moei River, when three Tatmadaw soldiers approached them. The soldiers ordered them to stop the tractor they were using to carry the wood, and asked where they were taking it. The villagers answered that some were going to Htee Nyah Lih village and others to Htee Ther Leh village, both of which are in the vicinity of Waw Lay. Saw T--- reported that the Tatmadaw soldiers did not believe them, and that all five of the villagers were then forced to squat with their hands behind their heads under the sun for an hour between 11 am and 12 pm. According to Saw T---, a 13-year-old child, Saw H---, was also arrested at the same time but was not forced to squat in the sun. Saw T--- told KHRG that all six of the villagers were released at 12 pm, and he also reported that he believed that the Tatmadaw soldiers that arrested them had appeared intoxicated.

The second incident was witnessed and reported to KHRG on December 20th 2010 by a local source in the area of Aung Ja village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, which is approximately two to three hours on foot from Waw Lay village. The source told a KHRG researcher that, at around 8:30 am on December 20th 2010, there had been fighting between DKBA soldiers and Tatmadaw soldiers in a coconut plantation near Aung Ja village. When the fighting stopped at around 9:30 am, seven or eight Tatmadaw soldiers under the command of Sergeant P--- came to Nya Bpai Hta village, also approximately two to three hours on foot from Waw Lay, near the border with Thailand. When the group arrived at Nya Bpai Hta, they saw a Thai policeman attempting to purchase wood. According to the local source, the Thai policeman saw the Tatmadaw soldiers approaching and ran away, across the bridge to the Thailand side of the Moei River, which is narrow in this area. The Tatmadaw soldiers followed him to the middle of the bridge, before turning back. The source said that the Tatmadaw soldiers were angry about this incident and began interrogating the villagers in Nya Bpai Hta about undocumented border crossings in the area, before arresting at least six villagers, including the village head and a pickup truck driver named Saw M---. The soldiers confiscated three tractors and the pickup truck, which was owned by Saw M---'s Thai boss, in order to transport Tatmadaw military supplies. The source also witnessed the Tatmadaw soldiers hitting Saw M--- with a gun when the pickup truck would not start. As of December 23rd 2010, the local source reported that the villagers who were arrested had all been released and that the vehicles had been returned.

The third incident was reported to KHRG on December 20th 2010 by Saw B---, 35, a resident of Waw Lay village. Saw B--- told a KHRG researcher that Tatmadaw soldiers had approached him two weeks earlier while he was charging his cell phone at his friend's house in Waw Lay village and talking to his friend. Saw B--- said that the soldiers asked him if he was a DKBA soldier; they did not believe him when he said that he was not a soldier and confiscated his cell phone, which they held for two weeks before returning it to Saw B---.

Update No.41: January 1st 2011 - 10:40 pm

Palu villagers celebrate Christmas in H--- village due to ongoing conflict and human rights concerns

On December 22nd 2010, a KHRG researcher took photos that show Christmas celebrations in H--- village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District. The photos show that H--- village was decorated for joint Christmas celebrations between residents of Palu and H--- villages and that celebrations began a few days before Christmas day in H--- village. This year, villagers from Palu decided to celebrate Christmas outside of their own village, due to ongoing conflict between DKBA and Tatmadaw troops in the Palu area. A photo update is available on the KHRG Photo Gallery: Displacement Monitoring as an Appendix to this report.

Update No.40: January 1st 2011 - 9:30 pm

KHRG Photos document examples of damage to property caused by shelling in Waw Lay village

Conflict between DKBA and Tatmadaw forces in eastern Dooplaya has been ongoing since November 7th 2010, after the DKBA force led by Na Kha Mway refused to transform into government-controlled Border Guard battalions. Waw Lay village, the home of DKBA commander Na Kha Mway before the conflict began, has been one of the main focal points for the recent conflict in eastern Dooplaya. Waw Lay villagers, their property and their livelihoods continue to be endangered both by the unstable security and military situation and the reckless use of weapons by soldiers in the area. Photos taken by a KHRG researcher on December 15th 2010 show examples of damage to buildings, homes and agricultural areas in Waw Lay village that shelling has caused. A photo update is available on the KHRG Photo Gallery: Displacement Monitoring as an Appendix to this report.

Update No.39: January 1st 2011 - 7:10 pm

Body of unidentified naked woman found near Waw Lay village

On December 22nd 2010, a KHRG volunteer researcher confirmed reports from Waw Lay villagers that the dead body of an unidentified naked woman was discovered close to Waw Lay village, near the school. Local community groups providing relief in the Waw Lay village area have also confirmed the discovery. The KHRG researcher photographed the woman's body in Waw Lay village in the afternoon on December 22nd 2010. By that time, the body had already begun to decompose and the KHRG researcher believed that the woman had been dead for at least two days already. The decomposed state of the body has prevented Waw Lay villagers from confirming her identity and also from confirming that she was, in fact, from Waw Lay village. The KHRG researcher reported that she appeared to be between the ages of 20 to 30 years old. Reports that the young woman was raped before her death have not been confirmed. Women in the area recently interviewed by KHRG have, however, cited fears of sexual violence among their reasons for avoiding contact with Tatmadaw soldiers and fleeing to Thailand. A photo update is available on the KHRG Photo Gallery: Displacement Monitoring as an Appendix to this report.

Update No.38: January 1st 2011 - 5:10 pm

KHRG photos document strategic displacement of villagers during Palu's harvest season

In the last week, KHRG has reported that Palu villagers continue to face human rights abuses and physical threats to themselves and their livelihoods due to ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups. Temporary flight to more secure locations remains an important self-protection strategy for civilians affected by ongoing conflict and conflict-related human rights abuses. However, conflict and displacement are also disrupting the agricultural cycle at a time when most villagers in eastern Dooplaya are hurrying to finish harvesting beans, corn and paddy crops, the main agricultural products cultivated in the area. For that reason, KHRG researchers report that many residents of Palu village have repeatedly sought temporary refuge across the Moei River in Thailand's Phop Phra District. This has allowed them to monitor the military situation from a safe location and then to return to their homes, fields and plantations after the shelling has stopped. A photo update is available on the KHRG 'Displacement Monitoring' Photo Gallery as an Appendix to this report.

Update No.37: December 31st 2010 - 5:30 pm

More shelling in Palu as villagers make plans to hold Christmas celebrations elsewhere

On December 22nd 2010, a KHRG researcher reported that more shelling occurred in Palu village at around 11:00 am on December 21st 2010. The KHRG researcher reported that, when the Palu villagers heard the sound of shelling, they fled from the fields and plantations where they were working and hid in their houses, but did not flee Palu village.

Conflict between the DKBA and Tatmadaw soldiers has been impacting the community in the Palu village area since the breakdown of peace talks between the DKBA and the Tatmadaw there on November 26th 2010 and continues to create an unstable situation for many villagers. Some villagers have chosen to seek refuge in Thailand because they are afraid that the fighting will endanger them or that they will be arrested and forced to porter military supplies and equipment for the Tatmadaw soldiers. Others, like those who fled the shelling on December 21st 2010, have chosen to remain in the Palu area; some residents have cited the urgency of completing the harvest of bean, corn and paddy crops, the main agricultural products cultivated in eastern Dooplaya, among their reasons for remaining in the area.

As Christmas approached and regular shelling in Palu continued, KHRG's researcher also reported that Christian villagers from Palu did not dare to hold celebrations there. They were instead making arrangements to celebrate Christmas in nearby H--- village, where there is no Tatmadaw army camp. The villagers from both Palu and H--- villages were planning to begin their Christmas celebrations a few days before Christmas Day.

Update No.36: December 23rd 2010 - 4:00 pm

Arbitrary arrest in Waw Lay village and execution in Meh K'Ner village

On December 21st 2010 at approximately 11 am, a KHRG researcher spoke to M---, a resident of Waw Lay village, who reported two separate incidents of serious human rights abuses committed by Tatmadaw soldiers during the last week in eastern Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District.

The first incident was reported by M--- to have occurred on December 19th 2010 in Waw Lay village. M--- told KHRG that he had been arrested by Tatmadaw soldiers and accused of stealing from the house of N---, another resident of Waw Lay village. He told KHRG that the Tatmadaw soldiers did not believe him when he said he had not entered N---'s house, and held him for one to two hours at a house belonging to C---, another villager from Waw Lay. He told KHRG that, while he was held, the soldiers, under the command of Sergeant B---, questioned him and threatened to beat him with their guns.

The second incident was reported by M--- to have occurred on December 18th 2010 in Meh K'Ner village, Kawkareik Township, approximately three hours on foot from Myawaddy Town, Pa'an District. M--- told KHRG that A---, a DKBA soldier, returned to Meh K'Ner village to check on his house, where his wife, daughter and parents-in-law lived. M--- heard from his friend G---, who is A---'s neighbour in Meh K'Ner village, that, when A--- returned, Tatmadaw soldiers on patrol in the village recognized him as a being a DKBA soldier. G--- told M--- that the Tamadaw soldiers came to A---'s house and shot and killed him and all four of his other family members living in the house, including A---'s two-year old daughter. KHRG has yet to separately confirm this incident, however it is, at minimum, a strong indicator of what villagers in the area view to be a credible threat from Tatmadaw soldiers.

Update No.35: December 22nd 2010 - 8:40 pm

Long-term consequences for villagers' livelihoods as conflict and displacement in the Palu area continue

Villagers in the Palu village area continue to face risks from ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups and temporary flight to more secure locations remains an important self-protection strategy for civilians. However, strategic temporary displacement in the Palu area is interrupting the agricultural cycle at a time when most villagers in eastern Dooplaya are hurrying to finish harvesting beans, corn and paddy crops, the main agricultural products cultivated in the area.

In an interview with a KHRG researcher on December 10th 2010, Naw P---, a resident of Palu Poe village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, described how the military situation in the Palu area is causing prolonged human rights concerns for, and displacement of, civilians during the busy harvest season. She confirmed that many villagers from the Palu area have sought temporary refuge in Thailand's Phop Phra and Mae Sot Districts but that many are trying to return to their plantations and fields in order to complete the harvest of bean, corn and paddy crops. She said that some villagers continue to fear that they will be arrested and forced to porter military supplies, rations and equipment for the Tatmadaw if they return to Palu village and, for that reason, they are not returning to finish their harvest. Naw P--- expressed concerns that this will prevent those villagers from being able to repay their debts next season, which would have long-term consequences for the villagers' livelihoods. The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Naw P--- is available as an Appendix to this update.

"For the future, livelihoods are bad for us, because we will have to stay in Thailand and work as an employee [with daily payment], like our situation back in 1986. We don't have any [agricultural] work places in Thailand, and we have to look for employment day–to–day and survive like that. If we get a fever, we have to go to Mae Tao clinic [run by Dr. Cynthia Maung] because we can get free [medical treatment] and we don't need to pay the cost of the medicine."

- Naw P---, (female, 51) Palu Poe village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (December 10th 2010)

Update No.34: December 22nd 2010 - 8:00 pm

Fighting, displacement and human rights concerns in Pa'an District

In the last week, there has been further conflict between KNLA and Tatmadaw soldiers in Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District. Villages in Hlaing Bwe Township that have been affected include Noh Day Poe, Htee Baw Gkyo, Wa Bway Dtoo, Khaw Htee Bper, Daw Gkyo Boh, Oo Moo Kee and Oo Moo Hta. The Karen-language news agency Kwekalu reported that shelling began on December 5th and, according to a member of the support staff team helping the refugees who spoke with a KHRG researcher, intermittent shelling was still ongoing as of 9:00 am on December 15th. According to local sources, the Tatmadaw has asked the villagers to go back to their villages, but more than 65 villagers [13 households] have nonetheless crossed into Thailand at Mu Yoo Hta, [at the mouth of the Muh Yoo River] and 35 more families have gone to stay in K---, [an hour down the Moei river by boat]. Local and international organisations in Thailand have been providing support to the villagers staying at Mu Yoo Hta. On December 15th 2010, a KHRG researcher interviewed Saw F---, a member of the support staff team providing services at Mae La Oo refugee camp. The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Saw F--- is available as an Appendix to this update.

"One of the Mae Pa villagers [Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District] stepped on a landmine and got injured. It happened at about 5pm on Sunday evening on December 12th but we didn't receive him until Monday morning. He stepped on the landmine at his village when he was on the way here. Because it is an emergency, I tried to get him to the hospital at Mae Sariang. I don't know his name. We have a record of it in the camp office. But I don't know what type of landmine he stepped on because I had no time to ask. He injured his right leg and thigh."

- Saw F---, (male) relief worker, Mae Sariang District, Mae Hong Song Province (December 15th 2010)

Update No.33: December 20th 2010 - 5:30 pm

Shelling and fears of portering prolong displacement, disrupt the harvest in Palu village

On December 19th 2010 at around 7:00 am, there was more shelling near a Tatmadaw camp located between Palu Pa Doh (Big Palu) and Min Let Bpaing villages in Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, according to a local source that spoke with a KHRG researcher. The source told KHRG that DKBA forces shelled the Tatmadaw camp between 7:00 am and 9:00 am. Some villagers from Palu Pa Doh and Min Let Bpaing village fled across the Moei River when the shelling began, seeking protection in Thailand's Phop Phra District.

When shelling stopped at around 9:00 am, some of the villagers who fled to Thailand waited for information about the situation near their villages, and whether further fighting would occur, before returning; some residents began to return at around 11:00 am. Farmers throughout eastern Dooplaya are currently hurrying to finish harvesting bean, corn and paddy crops, the main agricultural products cultivated in the area. However, according to the local source, villagers who went back during the day on December 19th had to seek protection Thailand again at around 5:30 pm, because DKBA soldiers warned some villages that they planned to attack the Tatmadaw soldiers again during the night on December 19th.

Saw T---, a resident of Palu Pah Doh village, told KHRG that prolonged protection threats to, and frequent displacement of civilians is disrupting the busy harvest season, contributing to a scarcity of labour, and ultimately undermining livelihoods in area around Palu village.

"Many villagers didn't dare to return and finish harvesting in their corn and bean plantations and their fields. Even if we'd like to hire villagers for 200 [baht] a day, nobody wants to [work in the plantations and fields] because they're afraid that the fighting will happen or that the SPDC [Tatmadaw] will arrest them and use them to porter [military supplies and equipment]. Some villagers, if they agree to work in your plantation, you have to give them the money first and if you don't give the money first, they don't want to accept that you're going to hire them to work in your plantation. If we give the money [in advance], sometimes the shelling happens or the SPDC [Tatmadaw] is active and they flee and take your money with them. So it's a big problem for our livelihoods."

- Saw T---, (Male, 48) Palu Pa Doh village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (December 19th 2010)

Update No.32: December 19th 2010 - 5:15 pm

Night time shelling and displacement in Maw Poe Gkloh village

On December 19th 2010 at around 12:00 pm, a KHRG researcher received a report from a local source in Maw Poe Gkloh village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District that there had been shelling at a nearby Tatmadaw camp on December 18th 2010. The source reported that the shelling began at 11:00 pm and lasted for approximately one hour. The Tatmadaw camp that was shelled is located between the villages of Maw Poe Gkloh and Maw Kee villages, approximately 30 minutes on foot from both villages and half a day on foot from Waw Lay village. When the shelling started, some residents of both Maw Poe Gkloh and Maw Kee were afraid and fled their homes, away from the shelling, seeking protection in forested areas outside the villages. According to the source, the villagers are unsure which armed group was responsible for the shelling, but they believe it was likely the KNLA or the DKBA, because that part of Kawkareik Township remains mostly under KNLA and DKBA control.

Update No.31: December 19th 2010 - 8:30 pm

Shelling in Palu continues to displace villagers

On December 18th 2010 at approximately 7.45 am, a KHRG researcher reported that most villagers had returned to Palu village, Kawkareik Township by 11:30 am on December 17th after fleeing shelling at around 11:30 pm on December 16th. The researcher reported, however, that many villagers fled Palu again at around 5:30 pm on December 17th when DKBA soldiers entered the village and set up camp on the football pitch. A local source told KHRG that the villagers were afraid that there would be more fighting and shelling between the DKBA soldiers and the Tatmadaw soldiers, so they fled across the Moei River to seek protection in Thailand's Phop Phra District. The source added that the villagers who fled to Thailand listened for sounds of fighting or shelling in Palu during the night of December 17th, but heard nothing, and many residents had therefore returned to Palu by around 7:45 am on December 18th.

"Yesterday, we saw the DKBA soldiers enter the village and some of the villagers started to flee to Thailand, because they were afraid that there would be fighting. More and more people followed each other. I too didn't dare to stay in the village so I followed the others. At that time, my husband [had already gone] to the Thailand side [of the Moei River] and I couldn't communicate with him. It was difficult for me to manage [and know] what kind of things in my house I should take. So, I started fleeing alone without carrying anything. During the night, my husband tried to search for me [in Thailand] and, at around 7 pm, he found me with another friend in our friend's house. We didn't dare to go back in the night time but, because there was no shelling, we came back to our village this morning."

- Naw H---, (Female, 52), Palu village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (December 18th 2010)

Update No.30: December 17th 2010 - 5:15 pm

Updated map of affected areas of Dooplaya District

KHRG's field team has completed an updated map of Dooplaya District, with special attention to areas of eastern Dooplaya along the Thailand – Burma border that have been impacted by conflict between the Tatmadaw and armed Karen groups since November 7th. The map is available in the Map Room of the KHRG website and through the link provided below.

Update No.29: December 17th 2010 - 3:20 pm

Forced portering in Min Let Bpaing village

On December 17th 2010 at approximately 9 am, a KHRG researcher reported that 40 residents of Min Let Bpaing village, Kawkareik Township, had been seized by Tatmadaw soldiers on December 16th and forced to porter Tatmadaw rations to Sweh Daw Gone artillery camp. Sweh Daw Gone is located near the Tatmadaw base at Ta Gkaw Gkyo, approximately two to four hours on foot from Min Let Bpaing village. Local sources report that there are between 70 and 100 Tatmadaw troops based at Sweh Daw Gone camp, along with at least three heavy artillery guns.

Update No.28: December 17th 2010 - 3:00 pm

Shelling in Palu displaces villagers, disrupts agriculture

On December 16th 2010 at around 11:30 pm renewed shelling was reported in Palu village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District. According to a KHRG researcher in the area, the DKBA shelled positions held by Tatmadaw soldiers based in Palu village between 11:30 pm on December 16th and 1:00 am on December 17th and that more than 20 shells landed in or around Palu. Most villagers fled the village when the shelling began, with some fleeing across the Moei River to Thailand and some staying outside of the village on the Burma side of the river. Local sources told the KHRG researcher that the village was still empty at about 8:30 am on the morning of December 17th but that most of the villagers who fled Palu for the night had returned to their homes by 11:30 am.

"In the last two days, many villagers came back into the village because the fighting stopped for a few days. But then last night the shelling happened again and, this morning, there were no villagers walking on the road in the village. The villagers had to leave their bean plantations and fields. Even if we'd like to hire people to work in our bean plantations and fields, nobody wants to [work in the fields], because the situation isn't stable."

- Saw L---, (Male, 38), Palu village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (December 17th 2010)

Update No.27: December 17th 2010 - 2:00 pm

Providing education amidst conflict and displacement in Thay Baw Boh

The school in Thay Baw Boh village, Kawkareik Township, has been closed since 9 am on December 13th. Since the closure, villagers and school teachers in the Thay Baw Boh area have made arrangements for their children to attend classes at other schools in the community because the military situation remains too unstable to reopen the school in Thay Baw Boh village. On December 14th 2010 a KHRG researcher spoke with Saw E---, a resident of Thay Baw Boh village, about how families with children in Thay Baw Boh are responding to the continued school closure. The full transcript of KHRG's interview with Saw E--- is available as an Appendix to this update.

We thought we should stop school. If the school was still open, we know the students wouldn't be interested in their studies because they're staying in a terrible situation. I already talked about this with Saw T--- [a villager in Thay Baw Boh]. We decided that we'll talk with a local school teacher in M--- village and a local school teacher in N--- village and arrange to take some of our students to M--- school and some to N--- school because they have the same curriculum as our school.

- Saw E---, (male) Thay Baw Boh village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (December 14th 2010)

Update No.26: December 16th 2010 - 8:00 pm

Villagers at risk from landmines, shelling and portering in Gk'Neh Lay village

On December 16th 2010, Saw D---, a resident of Gk'Neh Lay village, Kawkareik Township, reported to a KHRG researcher that there had been shelling in the vicinity of Gk'Neh Lay village on December 14th.

"People [DKBA soldiers] have planted landmines around the Tatmadaw soldiers' camp [in Gk'Neh Lay]. Some of the [Tatmadaw] soldiers travelled out of the camp and stepped on the landmines and got injured, but I don't know how many were injured or died. I know that they [the Tatmadaw soldiers] got angry about this and [on December 14th 2010] they shelled around the camp, and some shells reached the village and some reached the villagers' [agricultural] work places."

- Saw D---, (30, male), Gk'Neh Lay village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (December 16th 2010)

Saw D--- also reported that Saw H---, another Gk'Neh Lay villager, was injured in his leg when shells landed in the bean plantation in which he was working. Most villagers in eastern Dooplaya are currently hurrying to finish harvesting bean, corn and paddy crops, the main agricultural products cultivated in the area. Saw D--- told KHRG that Saw H---'s injury is not serious and that other villagers are taking care of him. However, because of this incident, Saw D--- said that the residents of Gk'Neh Lay do not dare to sleep in the village. Instead they're sleeping in the forest away from the village and their fields, returning to check on their fields and houses only during the day. The KHRG researcher added that the villagers are also avoiding the village because they are afraid that they will be forced to porter for the soldiers if they return. The Tatmadaw camp in Gk'Neh Lay is located on elevated ground just outside the village. On December 6th, KHRG reported that Tatmadaw troops in Gk'Neh Lay had been forcing villagers to carry water up the hill to their camp for cooking and bathing every day since December 2nd.

Update No.25: December 16th 2010 - 9:40 am

Threats and displacement continue to disrupt the harvest in Waw Lay

On December 14th 2010 at 3:30 pm a group of approximately 30-40 Tatmadaw soldiers entered Waw Lay village. A KHRG researcher later interviewed Waw Lay villagers who were in the village and witnessed the following incident. According to the villagers, some Waw Lay residents had temporarily come back from hiding places in the forest to check on their houses. The villagers that spoke with KHRG said that that, when the soldiers saw the villagers, they forced them to lie on the ground at gunpoint. When one of the four people raised his head to see the soldiers, they kicked him. The soldiers told them that if groups of two or more villagers were seen walking together when they returned the following day, they would be shot on sight. They also blamed the villagers for the recent attacks on Tatmadaw soldiers in the area. The villagers reported that the troops fired their guns around the village to scare the villagers and threatened to burn down all the houses in Waw Lay village if they were attacked again. According to the villagers, they had chosen to return to Waw Lay during the day because they did not expect to encounter any soldiers; Tatmadaw soldiers have typically been visiting civilian areas in the evenings. The Tatmadaw soldiers that entered the village on December 14th are part of a unit based in nearby Htee Nyah Lih. A KHRG researcher in the area also added that unseasonable rains last week have complicated normal agricultural activities, pushing farmers to stay near their homes and fields. According to the researcher, rain caused some newly harvested paddy to sprout, ruining the crop. Because of this, there are still at least 30-40 villagers who continue to hide close to Waw Lay, just across the border in Thailand's Phop Phra District, so that they can return during the day to check on their homes and fields. These villagers are sleeping under trees and bushes and say they do not dare to come and stay in RTA-controlled areas. As of 3:30pm on December 15th, they were not receiving support from any group.

Update No.24: December 14th 2010 - 7:30 pm

More fighting reported in Waw Lay area

On December 14th 2010, at around 12:57 pm, a KHRG researcher reported shelling in Htee Ther Leh village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, and that villagers were fleeing from Mae Klaw Kee and Waw Lay villages. Htee Ther Leh is approximately 20 minutes by motorcycle from Waw Lay. According to a local source in Htee Ther Leh, many of the villagers are hiding in the forest near their fields, instead of fleeing to Thailand, so that they can continue to work. The source also reports that some villagers have said they will go to Thailand if they can finish their work; most villagers in eastern Dooplaya are currently hurrying to finish harvesting bean, corn and paddy crops, the main agricultural products cultivated in the area.

Update No.23: December 14th 2010 - 8:40 am

Fighting and displacement in the Waw Lay and Palu areas

Reports received by KHRG on December 13th 2010 indicate that villagers across a large geographic area of Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District continue to face risks from ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups in the area, and that temporary flight to more secure locations remains an important protection strategy for civilians. Fighting or displacement related to fighting was reported in and around Palu, Waw Lay, and Kyo G'Lee villages today, displacing an unknown number of civilians.

At 9 am on December 13th 2010, DKBA soldiers took positions between Palu and Min Let Bpaing villages in preparation for staging attacks on Tatmadaw soldiers currently based around Palu, according to a KHRG researcher who spoke with villagers in the area. Villagers told KHRG they were afraid that Tatmadaw forces would see the DKBA soldiers and fire mortars, and therefore did not dare to go to work in their fields, bean and corn plantations.

Further south in Waw Lay Village, local villagers told KHRG that DKBA soldiers began shelling Tatmadaw soldiers based in Waw Lay at approximately 1 pm on December 13th, and that by 1:20 pm more than 20 shells had landed in the area. According to the villagers that spoke with KHRG, some civilians staying inside Waw Lay village fled the shelling; civilians who were outside of Waw Lay, at agricultural projects and on the bank of the Moei River, were also reported to have fled. Villagers fled to both official and unofficial sites in the Waw Lay area of Thailand's Phop Phra District. A local source estimated that there were just 50 people in an official RTA temporary camp on the morning of December 13th; relief workers indicated that by 3:45 pm there were 250 refugees in the same site, although it was estimated that only 50 of those were new arrivals. As of 10:45 pm on December 13th 2010, villagers continued to report mortars landing in the Waw Lay area.

"When the shelling happened, I fled to the Thailand side of Waw Lay village but I didn't want to go to the place that is recognized by Thai soldiers. If I go to that place, it's not easy to go or get out, and I can't manage to come back to look after my field. So, I stay on the Thailand side with a friend and if there is no shelling, I can go back to my field secretly. Even when I finish all of my work, if the fighting happens in the future, I don't think that I will go to stay in the place that is recognized by the Thai soldiers, because it is easy for them to ask us [to go] back."

- Naw Mu Naw (female, 30), Waw Lay village (December 13th 2010)

In nearby Oo Hoo Htah, community members providing support estimated on the afternoon of December 13th that 304 residents of Waw Lay and Htee Theh Lay were temporarily seeking protection; a further 131 people were said to be sleeping on the Thai side of Oo Hoo Htah but returning to work at their agricultural projects during the day. A source present in the area reported that five shells were heard falling on the Burma side of Oo Hoo Htah on December 13th.

Elsewhere in the Waw Lay area, as of 6:30 pm on December 13th community members were providing support to 72 families, comprising 354 individuals plus 13 families with 82 individuals in Oo Kreh Htah village, and an additional 24 families, totaling 111 individuals in Nyah Peh Htah village. A local source indicated that Oo Kreh Htah was completely empty of civilians on the night of December 12th, as was nearby Bpler Doh.

KHRG also received unconfirmed reports of fighting at approximately 12 pm on December 13th at Kyo G'Lee village, Kawkareik Township, which lies south of Waw Lay along a vehicle road. KHRG reported earlier this month that villagers have been fleeing the area around Kyo G'Lee in small groups since November 27th due to fears of renewed fighting between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups in the area.

Update No.22: December 13th 2010 - 7:30 pm

School closure in Thay Baw Boh continues

As of 9 am on December 13th 2010, the school in Thay Baw Boh village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District has not re-opened; one week has passed since the school was closed on December 6th amid fears that fighting between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups near Palu village would reach Thay Baw Boh [see update #16]. A villager who spoke with KHRG said that residents of Thay Baw Boh remain afraid that fighting will happen near their village because DKBA units active in the area have warned them to expect an increased Tatmadaw presence, as well as fighting. The local source also reported that families in Thay Baw Boh are currently making arrangements for their children to attend classes in other communities in the area, in case the military situation remains too unstable to reopen the school in Thay Baw Boh.

Update No.21: December 10th 2010 - 8:00 pm

Fears of portering prolong displacement, disrupt harvest in Palu village

Villagers from Palu say that they expect the threat of forced portering to increase in the near future, and report that Tatmadaw soldiers have seized ten civilians in the last two days. On December 9th 2010 at 11 am, a KHRG researcher interviewed Saw Pe---, a resident of Palu village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, about the current situation for civilians in Palu. According to Saw Pe---, many villagers continue to avoid returning to Palu, particularly the area of Palu Poe, due to fears that more Tatmadaw troops will arrive in the village and that villagers will be arrested and forced to porter Tatmadaw rations and equipment.

"Why [do] some people dare [to come back] and some not dare to come back? One reason is that now they hear [Tatmadaw Light Infantry] Division #44 and #22 will come [to the Palu area]. These units, people have heard they are the units from '88 [1988], when the students protested. They [LID #44] don't respect [people]; they follow[ed] orders. So the first reason villagers don't dare to come back is because they hear Division #44 will come… The second reason is, now people are afraid about portering. They're afraid about portering because the food [Tatmadaw rations] that's in Palu camp, they [Tatmadaw forces] have to send it to Waw Lay. It's not easy to send [the rations] by car. They'll increase their soldiers and maybe yeh beh [prisoners] will be included with them, and [maybe] they'll carry food by people [porters]. For this reason, they [Palu villagers] don't dare to go back… No one goes back and stays in Palu Poe. No one stays there. No people stay, but some people stay in Thailand. They go and stay temporarily in Thailand and they come back and listen in the morning at the river bank. If people can go and work, they go back and work; they finish the work that they need to finish. People still stay in Palu Bpa Doh."

Information received by KHRG from Palu indicates that villagers' fears about forced portering are being reinforced by regular reports of villagers being arrested and forced to porter for the Tatmadaw. Saw Pe--- described one such incident:

"When I went and carried paddy, people told me that there are people who were arrested. They have to send [porter] rations. This means the Burmese [the Tatmadaw] stay on the mountain and they [porters] have to carry water [to the Tatmadaw camp]. They have to carry it up to the mountain. There has been this. They're still in the Burmese army [camp]. They were not released after they were arrested… I haven't heard exactly about how many civilians they arrested but I heard that yesterday four people were arrested at a plantation. Until now, those four people have not been allowed to come back... [They were arrested] at a plantation close to T'La Ee Thee Hta [an elevated Tatmadaw camp near Palu], where people go and pick corn and harvest bpeh [beans]. People were working and they were interested in doing their work. But they [Tatmadaw soldiers] saw people and called people over when they arrived [at the plantation]. These are the people who haven't come back yet until now."

When Saw Pe--- spoke with a KHRG researcher again on December 10th at approximately 2 pm, he clarified that only three villagers had been arrested by Tatmadaw troops at a plantation near Palu Bpa Doh (Big Palu) – not T'La Ee Thee Hta – on December 8th, and that he had spoken with these villagers when they returned to the village on the morning of the 10th. They told Saw Pe--- that they'd been ordered to help to carry two wounded Tatmadaw soldiers to the camp at T'La Ee Thee Hta, adding that they had seen several more wounded soldiers on the way, and therefore suspected that more villagers would be arrested to carry Tatmadaw casualties.

A plantation owner in the Palu area, meanwhile, told KHRG that on December 9th at 2 pm, seven more villagers were arrested by Tatmadaw soldiers at a bean plantation owned by Saw K---, where many villagers have in the past sought employment as day labourers. The owner added that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find labourers on his bean plantation, explaining that he would usually pay 90 to 100 Thai baht to hire a labourer for one day during the harvest season, but that he cannot currently find sufficient labour even though he is offering wages of 200 Thai baht per day. Another plantation owner told a KHRG researcher on December 10th that he is offering 500 Thai baht for two days of labour, but cannot find enough people who are willing to work. The same owner said that he had heard that some Palu residents were instead taking jobs at a significantly lower wage of 120 Thai baht per day just across the river from Palu in Thailand.

Both plantation owners interviewed on December 10th attributed the scarcity of labour to the unwillingness of many villagers to return to Palu while the risk of being arrested as porters remains high. The high wages offered for labour also indicate the window of opportunity for villagers to harvest corn, bean and paddy crops is rapidly closing. This concern was also voiced by Saw Pe--- when he spoke with KHRG on December 9th, who worried that he had already lost half of his crop:

"It's time to harvest but people aren't harvesting, so the bpeh [beans] are falling down… I see that I planted seven tins of [bean] seeds, and that should get [yield] 100 or over 100 tins [of beans], but we can't harvest on time. How can I say it? They [the beans] fall down because the time [to harvest] has passed. Many [beans] have fallen down when you come back to harvest. Only half are still left."

Update No.20: December 9th 2010 - 7:00 pm

Repeated flight and obstacles to refuge in Waw Lay village

Over the last week, civilians have continued to flee Waw Lay village to seek safety in Thailand. As of the evening of December 7th 2010 a temporary site in Thailand home to villagers from the Waw Lay village area held 362 people. At approximately 11 am on December 8th 2010, Thai authorities announced over loudspeakers that it was safe for refugees to return, and that they had to do so. While community members reported that refugees were told they could return after they checked on their homes if the situation was not stable, relief workers also reported that language used by the RTA was more aggressive than on previous occasions when refugees were encouraged to return, and that civilians in the site made it clear that they did not wish to return to Burma. By lunchtime, the entire site was empty. During the night of December 8th 2010, fighting was again audible in the Waw Lay area [See, Update #17]. Fighting continued during the day on December 9th as well, prompting people to again flee to Thailand. According to relief workers, as of 5:45 pm a temporary site in Thailand held 416 people with at least 1,200 people hiding in the area.

Update No.19: December 9th 2010 - 5:45 pm

Repeated flight and obstacles to refuge in Palu village

Over the last week, civilians have continued to flee Palu village to seek safety in Thailand. On the night of December 6th 2010 a temporary site in Thailand hosting villagers from the Palu village area held 1,200 people. Of this group, 400 left during the morning of December 7th 2010. Later that day, RTA soldiers announced over loudspeakers that it was safe for remaining refugees to leave. All but 100 left through the course of the day. Mortar fire resumed that afternoon, prompting many civilians that had just departed to return to Thailand. By 6 pm relief workers reported that 310 of the recently returned refugees had returned to Thailand. On the morning of December 8th 2010, the temporary site held 341 people. By lunchtime, however, all but a few families had been told over a loudspeaker that they had to return, and had departed the site.

Interviews conducted by community members indicate that not all villagers returning to Burma on December 7th and again on the 8th did so voluntarily. Villagers reported a mixture of motivations to leave the temporary site, including feeling pressure to harvest fields and repay debts, cultural conflicts between Thai and Burmese regarding sanitation practices, and varying levels of coercion from RTA soldiers. Full transcripts of five interviews with civilians from Palu village are available as an appendix to this update.

"We dare not to go back. For the previous time, even though we dared not to go back, they pointed at us with guns and asked us to go back. They asked us to go back and said nothing would happen to us: 'Go back and stay there.'… They told us nothing would happen to us: 'Go back and stay.' They scolded us and drove us to go back like dogs and pigs. Therefore, we had to go back. We went back [to Burma] and came back [to Thailand] again when the fighting happened."

Naw---, (30, female), Palu village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya Distrist (Interviewed in Thailand on December 8th 2010)

"They don't order us to go back. They said, 'You can go back. The other side is peaceful. Nothing is happening.' I don't dare to go back. Fighting is happening there. We hear [the sounds of fighting] every night… I don't feel anything but one thing: I am afraid. I want to go back to my village… I want to go back if I can go back. The Thai army said, 'You can go back to other side.' [But they] take [people as] porters if men go back to the other side. If they take porters, I just have one husband. What am I going to eat with if they take [him as a] porter? How can I work and feed these six children?"

Daw ---, (40, female), Palu village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya Distrist (Interviewed in Thailand on December 8th 2010)

Update No.18: December 9th 2010 - 12:45 pm

Tatmadaw soldiers obstruct returning refugees

At 10:30 am on December 9th 2010, Tatmadaw soldiers prevented at least five villagers attempting to return to Waw Lay village from entering the village. According to one of the five men, the group had spent the night in Thailand after fleeing because of fighting last night. When they attempted to return this morning, however, they encountered a group of Tatmadaw soldiers on the Burma side of the Moei River, which forms the border separating Dooplaya District from Thailand. The villager that spoke with KHRG said that the Tatmadaw soldiers appeared to be very angry, which he said he believed to be because Tatmadaw soldiers were killed and wounded during fighting last night. Other villagers in Waw Lay confirmed that they witnessed Tatmadaw soldiers carrying two dead and three wounded soldiers this morning.

Update No.17: December 9th 2010 - 9:00 am

Night time shelling and displacement in Waw Lay

On December 8th 2010, a KHRG researcher in the Waw Lay village area reported that shelling resumed at 8:30 pm. Reports indicate that this shelling went on until midnight. Shelling was in the vicinity of Htee Nyah Lih. Htee Nyah Lih is currently a Tatmadaw camp, suggesting that the shells were fired by the DKBA. At least some shells also fell inside Waw Lay village, near the home of Naw ---. As of 9 pm last night, this round of fighting had caused at least 100 people to flee to Thailand, while others were trapped inside the village and unable to flee. Naw D---, from Waw Lay though not counted in this group of 100, described the following situation when she spoke with KHRG this morning:

"I was in my field hut, and I fled to the Thai side and dared not to come back to my field hut again. I slept the whole night in Thailand with a friend [in Thailand] and in the morning I managed to come back to my field. Even though I am afraid to come back, I have to come back to finish my harvest."

By 9 am on December 9th 2010, relief workers also confirmed that at least 100 people that fled last night had returned to Waw Lay. The conditions of their return have not been confirmed.

Update No.16: December 8th 2010 - 4:45 pm

School Closures in Thay Baw Boh village

On December 8th 2010 at approximately Saw Lo---, a resident of Thay Baw Boh village, Kawkareik Township, told a KHRG researcher:

"On December 6th 2010, the school [in Thay Baw Boh] had to close because the villagers are afraid that the SPDC [Tatmadaw] soldiers in the Palu village area will reach the village. Some of the villagers are staying on the Thailand side [of the Moei River] and some are staying in the village [in Burma]. We don't know when we'll re-open the school, because of the students' parents are afraid of the attacks."

As of the afternoon of December 8th, the school in Thay Baw Boh has not re-opened; Saw Lo--- said that the villagers would have to monitor the situation before deciding whether or not to start having classes again. Thay Baw Boh is located on the Burma side of the Moei River, south of Palu village and directly opposite a village of the same name in Phop Phra District, Thailand.

Update No.15: December 8th 2010 - 4:44 pm

Shelling reported in Kyaw Keh village

On December 7th 2010, a KHRG field researcher reported that at approximately 2:00 pm that day villagers in Palu village, Kawkareik Township heard shelling in Kyaw Keh village; Kyaw Keh is two hours on foot south of Palu on the Burma side of the Moei River. After hearing two mortars exploding in Kyaw Keh, some residents of Palu began to move to the riverbank, worried that there shelling would come closer to Palu and that they would have to flee across the river into Thailand. Some villagers who were at work in their fields, however, did not flee and remained at work in their fields. Farmers throughout eastern Dooplaya are currently harvesting bean, corn and paddy crops, the main agricultural products cultivated in the area.

Update No.14: December 6th 2010

Daily forced labour in Gk'Neh Lay

A KHRG researcher that visited Gk'Neh Lay reports that Tatmadaw troops based in Gk'Neh lay have been forcing villagers to carry water for them every day since December 2nd 2010. Tatmadaw soldiers are avoiding leaving their camp, and making the villagers bring water for both bathing and cooking. Frustration with these demands have caused at least some villagers to hide outside the village.

Update No.13: December 6th 2010

Fighting and threats in Waw Lay

Villagers report that the DKBA shelled Tatmadaw soldiers based near the Waw Lay monastery at 2:28 pm on December 6th 2010. This fighting prompted at least some residents to flee. Villagers that remained in Waw Lay say that shelling ceased by 3 pm, after which Tatmadaw soldiers demanded residents who remained in the village to tell them where the DKBA is based, and threatened them with their guns.

Update No.12: December 6th 2010

House burning in Waw Lay

At 5 pm on December 6th 2010 villagers hiding outside of Waw Lay reported that they could see fire and smoke coming from a house burning near the market in Waw Lay.

Update No.11: December 5th 2010

Portering and landmine concerns in Waw Lay village

On December 5th 2010, KHRG interviewed Naw P---, 40, from X village. Naw P--- told KHRG that early that day she saw a Tatmadaw unit pass by her house accompanied by a male villager who was being forced to porter equipment for the soldiers. A larger unit had passed through earlier the same day, she told KHRG, 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.

Naw P--- also told KHRG that DKBA soldiers had warned villagers that they should only travel along main roads. Villagers should avoid small pathways, the DKBA informed the villagers, because they had placed landmines in areas they suspected that Tatmadaw soldiers might travel. Naw P--- said this was making problems for villagers, who are afraid to travel along main roads because they do not want to encounter Tatmadaw soldiers.

Update No.10: December 4th 2010

Early morning displacement in Palu

On December 4th 2010 at 7:30 am villagers in Palu report fleeing to Thailand because of fears from audible shelling that morning.

Update No.8: December 3rd 2010

Night time displacement in Waw Lay

On December 3rd 2010 from 11:15 pm to 11:50 pm, as villagers slept in their houses, DKBA forces resumed shelling Tatmadaw positions near Waw Lay village. Tatmadaw soldiers responded with mortars of their own. At least some shells fell in the village, causing villagers to flee to Thailand. Villagers told KHRG that they did not receive a warning from the DKBA that shelling would resume that night, and had been unable to prepare for flight ahead of time.