Nyaunglebin Interviews: May 2011

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Nyaunglebin Interviews: May 2011

Published date:
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This bulletin contains the full transcripts of three interviews conducted by KHRG researchers in May 2011 with villagers from Ler Doh Township, Nyaunglebin District. The interviewees described the following human rights issues: forced relocation; threats to shell or burn villages; movement restrictions, including curfews, the requirement of travel permission documents and the restriction of river travel by boat; theft and looting; restrictions on the transport of medicine in civilian areas; arrest and enforced disappearance; killing of villagers; forced labour, including portering, camp and road construction and maintenance, the production of construction materials, and sentry duty; the use of villagers to shield Tatmadaw troops during foot patrols; and abuse by non-state armed groups. The villagers also raised concerns regarding food insecurity, access to livelihoods and access to health care, particularly while living in forced relocation sites. In order to address these concerns, the interviewees explained that villagers use strategies including: covert travel to agricultural projects to avoid curfews and movement restrictions; individual and collective negotiation, including with senior military authorities or non-military authorities; bribery; false compliance with relocation orders; submission of petition letters; and temporary strategic displacement to evade immediate human rights threats. These interviews were received in May 2011 along with ten other interviews with villagers from Nyaunglebin District.[1] 

Footnotes

[1] When these interviews have been processed and translated by KHRG and when sufficient information has been compiled and analysed, a full Field Report on the situation in Nyaunglebin District will be available on the KHRG website. Until then, KHRG's most recent analysis of the situation in Nyaunglebin District can be found in the recent Field Report, "Livelihood consequences of SPDC restrictions and patrols in Nyaunglebin District," KHRG, September 2009.

[2] When conducting interviews, KHRG researchers use loose question guidelines and encourage interviewees to speak freely about recent events, raise issues that they consider to be important and share their opinions or perspectives on abuse and other local dynamics.

[3] The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) was officially 'dissolved' on March 30th 2011; see: "Mission Accomplished as SPDC 'dissolved'," Myanmar Times, April 4-10 2011. The term 'SPDC' was used by the villagers interviewed for this report, and is therefore retained in the translations above.

[4] Note that there is no Military Operation Command (MOC) #567. The villager likely meant to say Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #567.

[5] 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

[6] For previous KHRG documentation of forced relocation in Ler Doh Township in 2006 linked to LIB #439, see: "Forced Relocation, Restrictions, and Abuses in Nyaunglebin District," KHRG, July 2006.

[7] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this bulletin 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 June 28th 2011, this unofficial rate of exchange was US$1 = 795 kyat.

[8]  'Su see' is a Burmese term meaning 'to gather' or 'to collect'. The term 'su see ywa' is often used by villagers to refer to a village designated as a relocation site.

[9] The phrase ah na deh, for which there is no direct translation in English, is commonly used in both Karen and Burmese in a wide range of contexts. It can be used variously to signify embarrassment, obligation or restraint due to feelings of respect, delicacy, honour or a fear of offending. In this case, the researcher is asking if the Tatmadaw officers felt ashamed to accept the chickens while at the same time continuing to demand villagers to perform forced labour duties.

[10] The Karen phrase koh per thoo translates literally as 'black scarves'. It is used to refer specifically to KNLA commandoes with six months or more special training, or as a general euphemism for KNLA soldiers.

[11] Note that KHRG has previously reported LIB #567 as being under Tatmadaw MOC #16, not MOC #10. See: "SPDC forces attack rice harvest to force villagers into 'new towns'," KHRG, November 2006. MOCs #10 and #16 were both documented as active in Nyaunglebin District in 2006 as part of the Tatamdaw's 2005-2008 Offensive in northern Karen State; see: "Forced Relocation, Restrictions, and Abuses in Nyaunglebin District," KHRG, July 2006. For background on the 2005-2008 Offensive, see: Self-protection under strain: Targeting of civilians and local responses in northern Karen State, KHRG, August 2010.

[12] Note that KHRG has previously reported IB #242 as being under Tatmadaw MOC #16, not MOC #10. See: "SPDC forces attack rice harvest to force villagers into 'new towns'," KHRG, November 2006. MOCs #10 and #16 were both documented as active in Nyaunglebin District in 2006 as part of the Tatamdaw's 2005-2008 Offensive in northern Karen State; see: "Forced Relocation, Restrictions, and Abuses in Nyaunglebin District," KHRG, July 2006.

[13] In October 2004 General Khin Nyunt, then-Prime Minister and chief of Burma's intelligence corps, was removed from his post and the intelligence apparatus under his control subsequently dismantled. For extensive background on the dismissal of Khin Nyunt and its implications for the country, see: Kyaw Yin Hlaing. "Myanmar in 2004: Why Military Rule Continues," Southeast Asian Affairs (2005), pp.230-256.

[14] 'Set tha' is a Burmese term for forced labour duty as a messenger stationed at army camps or bases and serving as a go-between to deliver orders from army officers to village heads, but also involving other menial tasks when no messages are in need of delivery.

[15] Pya ley pya was designed to cut armed opposition off from sources of "food, funds, intelligence and recruits" and, in practice, referred to an extensive scorched earth campaign widely credited with enabling the Tatmadaw to take control of much of the country beginning in the 1950s. See: Martin Smith. Burma: Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999, pp.258-262. Though official references to the four cuts strategy have ceased, overwhelming evidence indicates that Tatmadaw forces continue to employ tactics targeting civilians, particularly in Nyaunglebin, Papun and Toungoo Districts. See, for example: "Attacks and displacement in Nyaunglebin District," KHRG, April 2010; Self-protection under strain: Targeting of civilians and local responses in northern Karen State, KHRG, August 2010; "Tatmadaw attacks destroy civilian property and displace villages in northern Papun District," KHRG, April 2011.