Displacement Monitoring: Regular updates on protection concerns for villagers in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts and adjacent areas in Thailand

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Published date:
Friday, October 21, 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.

Update No.88: October 21st 2011 - 11:10 am
Arrest, detention and summary execution of civilian

According to a local source in Kawkareik Township, on August 17th 2011, soldiers from Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #406, under the command of Than Naing Soe, arrested Saw B---, a 37-year-old Thai citizen, while he was visiting his wife and child in A--- village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District. The source reported that the Tatmadaw LIB #406 soldiers accused Saw B--- of being a member of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) forces that have been fighting the Tatmadaw in Dooplaya and Pa'an Districts since November 2010. The source added that, although the A---village head went to the LIB #406 camp in order to attempt to negotiate Saw B---'s release, Saw B--- was summarily executed on August 20th after three days in detention.

 

Update No.87: October 12th 2011 - 2:40 pm
Tatmadaw movement restrictions, arrests and use of human shields in Ta Uh Htar village

Between September 30th and October 12th 2011, local sources in Kawkareik Township reported that Tatmadaw units under Light Infantry Division (LID) #22 have imposed movement restrictions on villages in the Thay Baw Boh and Ta Uh Htar areas, in connection with ongoing operations against Karen armed groups in the area, impeding some villagers' access to corn plantations and other agricultural workplaces at a time when many villagers have already begun to harvest corn crops.

According to at least four local residents that spoke with KHRG researchers, on September 25th boat traffic between villages in Burma and Thailand was suspended along a section of the Moei River, and travel restrictions between villages along the Burma side of the river were imposed. Communities subject to these restrictions included Wah Mee Htar, Maw Gker Htar, Thay Baw Boh and Lay Gkaw; residents of adjacent communities on the Thai side of the Moei River but with plantations or agricultural land in Burma were also unable to access their land. At least one source reported that movement restrictions were relaxed on September 28th, when villagers were permitted to travel to their agricultural projects, although farmers were not permitted to spend the night at fields and plantations. During the restrictions, one source explained, some corn farmers had expressed concern that crops that had already been harvested and were being stored on the ground, but had yet to be transported, would be damaged by rain if the restrictions remained in place.

According to two other local sources, as of October 11th 2011, restrictions on travel between villages and to agricultural projects remained in place further west, in Gkwee Ler Hsoo and Ta Uh Htar villages. The researchers who submitted information for this update explained that DKBA and KNLA forces currently occupy a temporary camp approximately four miles, or two hours' walk, from Ta Uh Htar, and frequently travel in the area; Ta Uh Htar village has approximately 100 households and 500 residents. The researchers believed that the Karen armed groups planned to establish this position as a permanent camp, and that the Tatmadaw presence and ongoing operations were aimed at dislodging the DKBA and KNLA from the area.

Residents of two different villages in the area who spoke with two KHRG researchers reported that Tatmadaw soldiers occupied positions in Ta Uh Htar and patrolled the surrounding area beginning on October 8th 2011. On October 8th and 9th, soldiers from the Karen armed groups ambushed patrolling Tatmadaw soldiers in the vicinity of Ta Uh Htar, resulting in at least two Tatmadaw casualties. One local resident reported that the clash on October 9th occurred near a place that locals refer to as Meh Naw Ay Kheh Htah, which is located ten minutes on foot from Ta Uh Htar. The source also reported that on October 10th, Tatmadaw soldiers arrested some residents of Ta Uh Htar village, and began forcing some male villagers to accompany soldiers on patrols; the source said he did not know further information about the villagers who had been arrested, or those forced to accompany Tatmadaw troops. The researcher who submitted this information stated that the use of villagers to accompany patrols was intended to provide "cover" the Tatmadaw troops from ambushes.

Information provided by local residents to KHRG researchers indicates that three Tatmadaw battalions under LID #22 are currently active in the areas described in this report: Infantry Battalion (IB) #310 and Light Infantry Battalions (LIBs) #203 and #204.

 

Update No.86: October 4th 2011 - 4:10 pm
Villager injured by landmine in Palu Poe village

On September 30th 2011, a local villager in the Palu area reported to KHRG that, on September 28th, he witnessed a villager who had been injured by a landmine being carried to the riverbank on the Burma side of the Moei River, opposite the Thai village of K---. According to this local source, 40-year-old L---, a Burmese villager from Palu Poe village, stepped on the landmine at approximately 1:30 pm when he was returning to Palu Poe after gathering mushrooms with a friend. He stepped on the landmine in the Bplaw T’Bpoh area, close to a corn plantation belonging to T---, a resident of Bplaw T’Bpoh village. Bplaw T’Bpoh is approximately five kilometers, or 45 minutes on foot, from Palu Poe village, between Palu and K'Hsaw Waw Lay villages. When L---- stepped on the landmine, part of his left foot and three fingers on his left hand were blown off. The local source reported witnessing local villagers sending L--- across the Moei River to receive medical treatment in Thailand directly after the incident occurred on September 28th. According to this witness, Tatmadaw battalions from Light Infantry Division (LID) #22 have remained active in the Blaw T’Bpoh area where L--- stepped on the landmine, and DKBA battalions led by Commander Kyaw That operated in the area prior to the 2011 rainy season; the same source reported that KNLA troops are not currently active in that area. KHRG has previously reported that, on May 13th 2011, villagers in Bplaw T’Bpoh noticed a taik [tripwire] landmine planted under a tree near a corn plantation and subsequently informed soldiers from Tatmadaw LID #22, who had assured villagers that they would remove any mines reported in the area.

 

Update No.84: August 5th 2011 - 2:15 pm
IB #24 orders forced labour in Tn---, issues movement restriction in Ht---

On July 18th 2011, a KHRG field researcher interviewed local sources in Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District who reported the following information. On July 17th, soldiers from Tatmadaw Infantry Battalion (IB) #24 ordered villagers from Tn--- village to transport six military backpacks to Sh--- village; three villagers from Tn--- used their tractors to transport the backpacks, accompanying the column of IB #24 soldiers as it proceeded to Sh---. According to the local sources, the column was ambushed by a KNLA force near Ht--- village, and during the ensuing clash the three tractor drivers from Tn--- fled the area, and the six backpacks belonging to the IB #24 soldiers were taken by the KNLA.

The sources interviewed by KHRG's researcher further reported that, following the ambush, the Tatmadaw accused residents of Ht--- of communicating with the KNLA; IB #24 soldiers ordered the villagers to find the six backpacks, and restricted them from travelling outside of Ht--- until the backpacks were recovered. When the villagers could not recover the backpacks, the IB #24 soldiers threatened that residents of Ht--- would be fined for any equipment lost in any future incidents near the village. The villagers were not, however, fined for the six backpacks lost on July 17th. According to sources in Ht---, the column of IB #24 soldiers stayed one night in the village, before proceeding towards Sh--- on the morning of July 18th.

 

Update No.83: July 30th 2011 - 7:30 pm
Shelling in Myawaddy Town

On July 26th 2011, a resident of Myawaddy Town, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District reported to KHRG that, on July 21st 2011, between approximately 6:00 and 9:00 am, mortar fire was exchanged between soldiers from Tatmadaw LIB #275 based in Dta Tah Thone Kone and soldiers from Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Battalion #907 operating in the area. According to the villager, the shells landed near Myawaddy Town, in the area of two neighbouring villages, Dt--- and N---. The villager reported that villagers were scared when they heard the shelling and have since prepared their belongings in advance, in order to flee if more fighting occurs in the area. The source also reported that many Myawaddy residents have avoided going to their agricultural projects outside of Myawaddy since the shelling; as of July 26th, some Myawaddy villagers continued to stay in their homes and were avoiding travel to agricultural projects outside of their village areas.

 

Update No.82: July 27th 2011 - 1:30 pm
Detention, arbitrary taxation and movement restrictions in T'Nay Hsah Township

On July 13th 2011, soldiers from Border Guard Battalion #1017, based at P--- camp in B--- village, T'Nay Hsah Township, arrested and detained at least 12 villagers from W---, including the village head. According to a KHRG researcher who spoke with local sources in the area, the W--- villagers were detained after five Battalion #1017 soldiers deserted from a smaller camp near W--- on July 11th. KHRG's researcher reported that the five soldiers took arms and ammunition when they deserted, including two M79 grenade launchers, twenty-four 40 mm mortar rounds, two M16 assault rifles, 300 rounds of 5.56 mm ammunition, and one AK47 assault rifle with 50 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. In addition to detaining the villagers at P--- camp, the local sources told KHRG's researcher that soldiers from Battalion #1017 threatened residents of W--- not to contact or give information to anyone outside the village, confiscated all of the villagers' mobile phones and imposed movement restrictions preventing W--- villagers from travelling to their agricultural projects. The P--- camp is located between W--- and L--- villages, and approximately one hour on foot from W---.

KHRG's researcher also reported that on July 14th, the day after the W--- villagers were detained, Battalion #1017 commander Dih Dih reported to Tatmadaw LIB #358, also based at P--- camp, that the W--- villagers had stolen the arms and ammunition taken by the five Battalion #1017 deserters. W--- village was subsequently ordered to pay a fine of two million Thai baht (US $67,000) to Battalion #1017; local sources also said soldiers from Battalion #1017 fired twenty-one 81 mm mortars into the forest near W--- village on July 14th, between 1:50 pm to 2:30 pm,. No villagers were reported to have been injured during the shelling.

On July 15th, the detained W--- villagers were released from P--- camp, after two days in custody. Local sources told KHRG's researcher that the village head immediately summoned all of the residents of W--- to discuss the Battalion #1017 order to pay two million baht for the lost weapons and ammunition. The community decided that the village head should go to P--- camp that same day to meet with Tatmadaw LIB #358, to tell the Tatmadaw that the villagers had not stolen the weapons and that, in fact, the weapons had been taken by the five Battalion #1017 deserters. According to KHRG's researcher, soldiers from LIB #358 agreed that if the Battalion #1017 deserters had taken the weapons, then the villagers were not responsible and did not need to pay the fine.

Following the July 15th meeting, Battalion #1017 commander Dih Dih warned villagers in W--- to finish cultivating their paddy and hill fields within a week, according to KHRG's researcher; W--- villagers were warned that after July 22nd, villagers would not be allowed to travel to their agricultural projects. Battalion Commander Dih Dih did not explain why movement restrictions would be imposed on the W--- villagers, however KHRG's researcher reported that villagers in the area were worried that Battalion #1017 was planning to conduct offensive military operations in the area. As a result, many villagers in the W--- area are currently trying to finish as much work in their paddy and hill fields as possible, before they are restricted from travelling. At this time of year, villagers in T'Nay Hsah Township who cultivate flat paddy fields are busy replanting paddy seedlings into empty flooded fields, while hill field farmers need to carry out regular maintenance such as clearing weeds and bushes from already-planted fields.

 

Update No.80: July 20th 2011 - 5:10 pm
Forced labour in the Palu area

On July 18th 2011 at approximately 1:40 pm, a KHRG field researcher in the Palu area of Kawkareik Township reported that at 7:00 am that morning he had met with a group of villagers performing forced labour for the Tatmadaw. The villagers were from La---, a village located 45 minutes on foot from Palu. The researcher told KHRG that he saw approximately 20 villagers from La--- carrying bamboo poles as he was about to leave Palu village. When the researcher asked the villagers why they were carrying the bamboo poles, the villagers said that they had been ordered to cut and deliver 50 bamboo poles to repair a Tatmadaw camp currently occupied by Infantry Battalion (IB) # 97 which is located ten minutes on foot to the east of Palu village.

 

Update No.79: June 27th 2011 - 11:30 am
Villager injured by landmine near Shwe Aye Myaing village

On June 23rd 2011, a KHRG researcher reported that U Ke---, a 72-year-old resident of Oo Kreh Htah village, had been injured by a landmine outside Shwe Aye Myaing village, Kawkareik Township. According to the researcher, the mine had been planted on a road connecting Shwe Aye Myaing with corn plantations cultivated by local residents. On June 23rd U Ke---, who makes a living by logging and selling wood, planned to return to a site outside Shwe Aye Myaing to check on logs that another villager told him might have been stolen. At approximately 12:20 pm, U Ke--- stepped on the landmine and his right foot was blown off. Local sources told KHRG's researcher that villagers working in a nearby corn plantation heard the explosion and brought U Ke--- to a Tatmadaw camp in Oo Kreh Htah village, where soldiers wrapped his wounded leg before the villagers carried him on to Ta--- Clinic in Thailand's Phop Phra District. A medic at Ta--- then sent U Ke--- on to Sa--- Hospital for further treatment.

Local sources could not confirm which armed group had planted the landmine. KHRG's researcher reported that both DKBA and Tatmadaw forces are active around Oo Kreh Htah and Shwe Aye Myaing village, and KHRG has documented the use of landmines and civilian landmine casualties in both villages in 2011.

 

Update No.78: June 23rd 2011 - 4:25 pm
Villager injured by landmine in Gklaw Ghaw village

On June 20th 2011, a local source told a KHRG researcher in Dooplaya District that Yi---, 21, had been injured by a landmine earlier that day in Gklaw Ghaw village, Kawkareik Township. Yi---, who is originally from Toungoo District, had come to Gklaw Ghaw in May 2011 to work in a sweet corn plantation owned by a resident of Waw Lay village in Thailand's Umphang District. According to the source that spoke with KHRG's researcher, at approximately 10:30 am on June 20th Yi--- stepped on the landmine while spraying weeds in the plantation, severely injuring his right leg. The source helped to send Yi--- to Umphang District for medical attention, where his right leg was amputated. Yi--- is the third son of six children in his family.

The source that reported this information believed that the mine that injured Yi--- was an M-14 anti-personnel mine that had been planted during conflict between DKBA 5th Brigade and KNLA forces in 2008. According to the source, both DKBA and KNLA forces planted landmines around Gklaw Ghaw in 2008; in 2009, the DKBA removed most of the mines its forces had planted when farmers from Thailand were allowed to develop land in the area for agricultural use. The soldiers informed residents of Gklaw Ghaw, however, that they were unable to locate and remove three M-14 anti-personnel mines deployed by DKBA forces the previous year. One of the remaining mines was subsequently discovered when a Thai farmer was clearing a plot of land using mechanised equipment, in order to prepare a sweet corn plantation. The local source stated that Gklaw Ghaw residents believe that Yi--- stepped on one of the two remaining mines, rather than a more recently-deployed mine, because no armed groups have been based in Gklaw Ghaw since the DKBA withdrew its forces in 2009. The source added that Gklaw Ghaw villagers are now concerned that at least one landmine may remain active somewhere in the area, and a threat to civilians.

 

Update No.77: June 17th 2011 - 3:30 pm
Villager injured by landmine in Gklaw Ghaw village

On June 15th 2011, a KHRG researcher reported that a villager had been shot on June 10th or 11th by DKBA soldiers collecting tax from vehicles travelling on the road between Myawaddy and Kawkareik towns in Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District.

According to local sources that spoke with KHRG's researcher, a unit of DKBA soldiers led by Officer San Aung, and under the command of Officer Kyaw That, has been active recently in the areas around Ko--- and Th--- villages in Kawkareik Township. The sources reported that San Aung's soldiers have demanded taxes from cars and trucks transiting the section of the Myawaddy to Kawkareik road that passes through the Dawna Mountain Range, although they have not constructed formal checkpoints as Tatmadaw and Border Guard Battalions have elsewhere along the road. The sources stated that they did not know when the DKBA troops had started collecting tax from passing vehicles.

The sources that spoke with KHRG's researcher reported that on June 10th or 11th San Aung's unit hailed a car passing on the road. The driver attempted to drive past the soldiers, and the troops fired small arms at the vehicle, blowing out one of its tyres and injuring a male passenger in the leg. KHRG's researcher reported that the driver sent the injured passenger to Kawkareik Hospital; as of June 15th, the wounded passenger had been treated and discharged.

Residents of the area told KHRG's researcher that after the incident, village heads of Ko--- and Th--- went to negotiate with San Aung's soldiers. The village leaders explained to the soldiers that, because the rainy season is now beginning, villagers in their communities need to travel to work in their hill fields and flat farms, but could not travel freely to their workplaces if the DKBA unit was active in the area. According to the sources that spoke with KHRG's researcher, since the meeting between the village heads and the DKBA soldiers, San Aung's unit has ceased to be active in the area around Ko--- and Th---. Local residents did not know where the DKBA soldiers had gone, or whether they were active in a different area.

 

Update No.75: June 2nd 2011 - 10:40 am
Villager injured by landmine in Gklaw Ghaw village

On May 22nd 2011 a KHRG researcher reported that one villager was injured by a mortar, and one villager was beaten by the Tatmadaw during a clash between Tatmadaw LIB #310 and another group on May 20th in Th'Waw Thaw village, Kawkareik Township. KHRG's researcher could not confirm which armed group was involved in the clash with the Tatmadaw, but local sources speculated that it was a force of DKBA soldiers.

According to KHRG's researcher, at approximately 2 pm on May 20th, a group of soldiers from LIB #310, including the Battalion Commander, were returning to Th'Waw Thaw village from a meeting with members of the Royal Thai Army (RTA) in Thailand. The clash began outside Th'Waw Thaw, as the Tatmadaw soldiers approached the village. According to local sources that spoke with KHRG's researcher, the fighting lasted for ten minutes, during which time the LIB #310 Battalion Commander was killed; two other Tatmadaw soldiers later died from wounds sustained during the clash.

At least one mortar round landed inside Th'Waw Thaw village during the skirmish; 28-year-old Saw Je--- was hit in his back by a mortar fragment, although local sources said his injury was not severe. KHRG's researcher said that he thought the mortar had been fired by Tatmadaw soldiers because LIB #310 was approaching Th'Waw Thaw when the fighting occurred, although local sources could not confirm which group had fired the mortar. Local sources further reported that when the LIB #310 troops entered Th'Waw Thaw following the clash, soldiers punched and kicked 43-year-old Saw Bo---, who was attempting to help the injured Saw Je---. The sources told KHRG's researcher that Saw Bo--- was kicked twice in the side and punched twice on the chin, but did not specify how many soldiers were involved in the incident.

According to KHRG's researcher, after the clash on May 20th Tatmadaw officers in Th'Waw Thaw requested that leaders of Thai Karen villages adjacent to Th'Waw Thaw come to meet with them in Burma. As of May 22nd, however, the village heads were unwilling to meet with the Tatmadaw, citing fears that they would be accused of communicating the armed group that clashed with LIB #310 as the soldiers returned from the meeting in Thailand.

 

Update No.74: May 17th 2011 - 3:00 pm
Dtaing bomb planted beside villager's plantation in Dooplaya District

On May 13th 2011, a KHRG researcher reported that on May 4th 2011 villagers from Bplaw Ta Bpoh village, Kawkareik Township, spotted a dtaing bomb [a trip-wire landmine] planted under a tree beside a plantation belonging to Naw So---, a 23-year-old resident of Bplaw Ta Bpoh. The villagers were on their way to work in their plantations between 7:00 and 8:00 am when they noticed the bomb. Naw So---'s plantation is located along the Moei River inside Burma, near Palu Poe village, between Palu and K'Hsaw Waw Lay villages.

According to KHRG's researcher, after they saw the dtaing bomb, the Bplaw Ta Bpoh villagers informed their village head. In order to warn people in the area, the villagers cut a marker into trunk of the tree under which the bomb had been planted. As of May 13th 2011, however, residents of Bplaw Ta Bpoh had not yet dared to clear weeds to prepare their fields to plant corn and beans because they were afraid that more explosive devices might have been planted around their plantations, in addition to the dtaing bomb discovered near Naw So---'s plantation.

KHRG has not confirmed which party to the current conflict was responsible for laying the dtaing bomb in Bplaw Ta Bpoh village. According to local sources, Tatmadaw LID #22 soldiers deployed in the area around Bplaw Ta Bpoh had told villagers to inform them if they saw any landmines, and said that they would safely remove them for the villagers. As of May 13th 2011 an LID #22 officer had been aware of the location of the bomb for seven days, but local sources said that no action had been taken yet to remove the bomb.

 

Update No.71: May 5th 2011 - 2:30 pm
Landmine injures two villagers in Oo Kreh Htah

On May 4th 2011, a resident of Oo Kreh Htah village, Kawkareik Township currently in hiding to avoid ongoing armed conflict between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups, reported the following incident to a KHRG researcher. At around 7:00 pm on May 2nd 2011, two villagers from Oo Kreh Htah village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, stepped on a landmine placed near civilian residences when they returned to Burma from discreet refuge sites in Thailand to check on their homes. One of the men had been seeking refuge in Thailand with his family since December 6th 2010, to protect themselves from ongoing conflict and conflict-related abuse.

The source that spoke with KHRG's researcher identified one of the injured villagers as U P---, 57, a married Oo Kreh Htah villager, but was unable to identify by name the other villager who was injured. According to the same source, U P--- had returned to check on his house on previous occasions since fleeing to Thailand on December 6th 2010. On this occasion, he and the unnamed villager were walking in land adjacent to his house compound when U P--- stepped on the landmine; the blast seriously injured the lower part of U P---'s left leg and mine fragments injured the other villager's eye. Both men are currently receiving treatment in L--- hospital in Thailand.

KHRG has not yet been able to confirm the details on the two villagers' current medical condition, and could not confirm who had planted the landmine that injured U P--- and the unnamed villager who accompanied him. Local sources told the KHRG field researcher that they suspected the landmine had been planted by Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) soldiers, because the DKBA is currently the most active armed group in the Oo Kreh Htah village area. In a previous landmine incident in the Oo Kreh Htah area reported by KHRG on February 15th 2011, a local source told KHRG that DKBA soldiers had previously warned villagers that they had planted landmines near Oo Kreh Htah in order to prevent Tatmadaw troops from entering the village.

Previous KHRG reports this year have documented five separate incidents in which villagers staying at refuge sites in Thailand to protect themselves from armed conflict near their homes have triggered landmines while attempting to return to their homes or to pursue their livelihoods inside Burma. Three cases in which civilians, including a 7-year-old girl, were seriously injured by landmines, and one case in which a civilian was killed by a landmine, have been reported by KHRG since March 5th 2011 alone, highlighting the serious risks faced by villagers who return to areas of ongoing or recent conflict in eastern Burma.

 

Update No.70: April 23rd 2011 - 2:30 pm
Landmines planted around Waw Lay and Palu villages kill one villager, injure two

On April 22nd 2011, a KHRG field researcher reported that U T---, a 52-year-old resident of Waw Lay village, Kawkareik Township died on April 19th after stepping on a landmine near Htee Ther Leh village. Sources close to U T---'s family told KHRG's researcher that the family had been seeking refuge at a discreet location in Thailand to protect themselves from ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw and Karen armed groups in the Waw Lay area since November 2010. To support his family while displaced, U T--- regularly crossed back into Burma to perform day labour, earning 200 Thai baht per day for logging in the forest around Waw Lay for his elder brother, U M---, who then sold the trees to one of the five local saw mills in Waw Lay.

On April 19th at approximately 10 am, U T--- travelled with his brother and his 18-year-old son to a forest between Waw Lay and Htee Ther Leh villages to fell trees. When they reached a hillside above Htee Ther Leh, U T--- stepped on a landmine; the blast severed his right leg below the knee, and injured his left foot. His brother and son carried U T--- back to Way Lay and sent him on to Phop Phra hospital in Thailand, where he later died from his injuries. Local sources told KHRG's researcher that they could not confirm who planted the landmine that killed U T---, because the forest between Waw Lay and Htee Ther Leh villages is regularly accessed by Tatmadaw, KNLA and DKBA forces. According to KHRG's researcher, U T--- was married with five children, including twin girls who were exactly one month old on the day he was killed.

In a separate incident, reported to a KHRG researcher on April 10th 2011, two villagers from Palu village, Kawkareik Township were injured by a landmine that had been planted on a path in the forest outside Palu in December 2010. A source close to the family of Saw L---, a 40-year-old resident of Palu, said that on the morning of December 15th Saw L--- was taking shelter in his field hut with another farmer, Saw La---, 45, during fighting between Tatmadaw and DKBA forces in the Palu area. Saw L--- and Saw La--- both cultivate corn to support their livelihoods and the field hut is located near their fields outside of Palu.

During the fighting, the men heard an explosion in the forest nearby and went to investigate what had happened. According to the source that spoke with KHRG, the two men checked with KNLA soldiers camped at the edge of the forest whether any mines had been planted on the forest path. The source said that the soldiers told the men that they did not know of any mines along the path, and informed them of the areas that the KNLA had mined; one of the soldiers accompanied the men as they proceeded into the forest. At approximately 10 am, as the men returned along the path after failing to find the location of the explosion, Saw L--- stepped on a landmine. According to KHRG's researcher, Saw L--- lost his left leg and his testicles as a result of his injuries. Saw La--- was injured in his back by mine fragments; the accompanying KNLA soldier was not injured. Local sources told KHRG's researcher that on December 15th most residents of Palu had fled the village due to the fighting in the area, but a woman who had remained in the village helped Saw L--- and Saw La--- cross into Thailand to access medical treatment for their injuries.

 

Update No.67: March 28th 2011 - 6:45 pm
Landmines planted around Waw Lay and Palu villages kill one villager, injure two

On March 21st and March 24th 2011, KHRG researchers interviewed Ma M---, a migrant worker in Thailand who had just returned from Htee Lone village in Pa'an District. Ma M--- told KHRG that Htee Lone village and neighbouring communities, including P---, T--- and Y--- villages, had received written letters issued by DKBA soldiers under the command of Na Kha Mway. According to Ma M--- the letters demanded cash payments from the villages, and residents of the receiving communities said that the DKBA unit issuing the demands had threatened to attack and burn Htee Lone as well as a nearby Tatmadaw camp outside a village occupied by retired Tatmadaw soldiers, Sit Mu Htan Haung, if the villagers didn't pay.

Ma M--- did not see the original letter sent to Htee Lone, but said that sources in Htee Lone, including a former village leader, as well as in Pa'an Town had informed her about the demands. She was told that Htee Lone had been ordered to pay 50 million kyat (US $56,818). As of March 21st Tatmadaw authorities were not permitting community leaders to collect and make the payment, creating security risks for some residents; according to Ma M---: "Villagers who are rich, and the village headman and secretary don't dare to sleep openly in the village."

Community members also informed Ma M--- that the DKBA had told them to expect DKBA – Tatmadaw conflict in that part of Pa'an District to escalate in the near future, but had not specified when the fighting would increase. 

"In Htee Lone, if villagers don't give that money, they [the DKBA] have threatened the villagers, for example that they'll burn down [the camp of] Unit [Tatmadaw Battalion] #203 at Sit Mu Htan Haung village. They just said things like that. They [the DKBA] also said there'll be war [an escalation of fighting] but that they don't know the exact date. At first I was surprised about this but when I asked people, I learned about it. In Htee Lone village, they say the same thing [that fighting will escalate]."

- Ma M---, Htee Lone village, Pa'an District (March 21st 2011)

"They didn't only target to burn Sit Mu Htan Haung. They targeted to burn both Htee Lone village and Sit Mu Htan Haung. I heard villagers there [in Htee Lone] say it was included in the letter that they'd do that."

- Ma M---, Htee Lone village, Pa'an District (March 24th 2011)

  

Update No.66: March 28th 2011 - 6:40 pm
More than 10,000 villagers continue to seek refuge along the Thailand-Burma border

Villagers in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts continue to utilise temporary strategic displacement to protect their physical security and human rights amid sustained conflict and militarization near their homes since November 7th 2010. Individuals seeking safety in adjacent areas of Thailand, however, have not been recognized as refugees entitled to refuge in officially-designated sites. Instead, 2,039 families are staying at dozens of smaller, unofficial sites dispersed along the Thailand – Burma border, the majority of which are located on both sides of the border between Thailand's Tak Province and adjacent Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District. Because villagers in these sites do not enjoy formal protection as recognized refugees, they are acutely vulnerable to coerced or forcible repatriation to militarized areas in which conflict is ongoing and the security and human rights threats from which they are actively seeking protection have yet to be resolved.

Recent data gathered by community members providing support to recently-arrived refugees in Thailand indicates that 10,772 villagers were accessing unofficial refuge at 29 locations in or adjacent to Tak and Mae Hong Son provinces as of March 21st 2011. Twenty-three of these sites, hosting 8,551 refugees, are dispersed along the border, between three districts of Tak Province and Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, the latter of which has seen the biggest upheaval in the local military context and the most frequent fighting since November. Refugee populations at each of these sites are provided in the table below. As these sites are unofficial, and the refugees in them have not been afforded the protection associated with formal refugee status, all locations have been censored for security.

 

#
Site
# of Families
Population over age 5
Population under age 5
Total Population
Male
Female
Male
Female
1
Wo---
95
---
---
---
---
477
2
Ha---
18
---
---
---
---
91
3
Ne---
16
---
---
---
---
75
4
Tu---
84
149
157
97
82
485
5
Ko---
33
30
42
55
54
181
6
Mi---
43
54
86
69
53
262
7
Ta---
33
---
---
---
---
184
8
Pu---
100
159
141
96
86
482
9
Or---
53
114
99
19
22
254
10
Si---
109
264
217
69
68
618
11
Se---
18
43
25
9
8
85
12
Wu---
78
---
---
---
---
425
13
Ot---
121
249
254
46
56
605
14
La---
91
225
229
19
22
550
15
Ho---
90
88
103
169
143
503
16
Ke---
29
---
---
---
---
163
17
Ki---
31
---
---
---
---
186
18
He---
76
140
107
66
80
393
19
Pa---
47
61
53
63
52
229
20
Mo--- and Ka---
223
400
420
170
198
1188
21
Ku---
26
54
57
15
16
142
22
Nu---
38
59
56
25
30
170
23
Kr---
93
---
---
---
---
550
24
Be---
73
128
121
77
69
395
25
Ma---
99
167
106
80
89
442
26
Kt---
21
38
44
12
9
103
27
Mu---
25
33
59
15
12
119
28
Me---
95
180
201
61
53
495
29
Te---
181
---
---
---
---
920
Totals
2,039
2,635
2,577
1,232
1,202
10,772

 

Update No.65: March 24th 2011 - 4:45 pm
Villager shot, houses burned during night-time DKBA attack on Waw Lay village

On March 24th 2011, a KHRG field researcher reported that one villager had been injured and several houses burned during a DKBA attack on Waw Lay village, Kawkareik Township just after midnight on March 23rd. Waw Lay is currently occupied by Tatmadaw forces and approximately half of the village's residents are staying in their homes, while the rest continue to seek refuge outside of the village, including at discreet locations in Thailand. According to KHRG's researcher, who was near Waw Lay at the time of the attack, small arms fire was audible from Thailand between 12:24 and 12:29 am on March 23rd.

Further details of the attack were supplied by villagers who spoke with KHRG's researcher when they fled Waw Lay at midday on March 24th amid rumours of further fighting in the village. These sources indicated that DKBA soldiers began an attack after midnight on March 23rd by shooting at Tatmadaw positions with small arms, and that Tatmadaw soldiers responded by firing small arms and three mortar rounds. During the clash, most villagers took cover in temporary bomb shelters they have constructed near their homes to protect themselves in case of fighting, and some residents crossed the Moei River to take temporary refuge in Thailand.

At least one villager was injured in the fighting: Saw Nya Uh, a 32-year-old resident of Waw Lay, was shot in the leg before he was able to take cover, sustaining a graze wound to his thigh; the local sources that spoke with KHRG's researcher could not confirm whether Saw Nya Uh was shot by a DKBA or a Tatmadaw soldier. The sources added that the DKBA soldiers burned nine houses during the attack, of which seven houses were partially burned and two were totally burned.

 

Update No.64: March 19th 2011 - 11:20 pm
Man seized by Tatmadaw soldier in Thailand, beaten unconscious in Burma

On March 9th 2011, a KHRG researcher spoke with Saw H---, a 27-year-old villager from Te--- village in Kawkareik Township, who described being severely beaten by Tatmadaw soldiers on February 20th 2011. Saw H--- said he is a former-DKBA soldier, but stated that he left the DKBA in early 2010 and believed that the men who beat him did not know about his prior involvement with the DKBA. KHRG confirmed that Saw H--- was unarmed and in civilian clothes at the time of the incident described below, but could not confirm his status as a combatant at other times. KHRG also confirmed that when DKBA – Tatmadaw conflict began in November 2010, he fled Te--- with his wife and child to stay near Mi---, in Thailand's Phop Phra District.

Saw H--- told KHRG that, on February 20th 2011, he travelled to a location referred to locally as Ge--- to gather wild vegetables. Ge--- is on the Thai side of the Moei River, approximately 45 minutes on foot from Mi---, and adjacent to To--- in Kawkareik Township. Saw H--- said that, at approximately 4 pm he descended from a tree where he was picking pah keh doh, a leafy edible vine, and was confronted by an unarmed man in civilian clothes, who he believes was a Tatmadaw soldier.

According to Saw H---, the man was angry because he had been calling him, in Burmese, to come down from the tree, but Saw H--- had not heard him and had remained in the tree. The man then punched him in the face, dazing him, and dragged him across the Moei River to To--- in Burma, tearing his shirt in the process. Saw H--- said two more men, who he also believes were Tatmadaw soldiers, were waiting on the Burma side of the river; neither was wearing a military uniform but both were armed with MA-1 assault rifles.

Saw H--- said the three men accused him of making and planting landmines, and punched and kicked him. He remembers being struck three or four times before being hit in the left side of his jaw with a rifle and knocked unconscious. He said that he regained consciousness around midnight that day and walked back to his temporary home in Mi---. When interviewed on March 9th, more than two weeks after the incident, Saw H--- said he was still having difficulty hearing in his left ear, which was oozing blood and pus, and experiencing chest pains when he breathed.

"They came and dragged me from Ge--- to the other side of the [Moei] river. At the same time, they beat me, punched me and kicked me… They beat me and hit me with a gun here [pointing to the left side of his jaw] once. Then, I became unconscious. When I became conscious again, it was after 12 [am]. I thought I had died. The one who came and dragged me [across the Moei River] wore ordinary clothes and did not bring his gun. Actually, [all] three of them wore ordinary clothes, but the other two brought their guns. They called me to come down [from the tree] for a long time, but I didn't hear them… It happened after 4 pm, and I became conscious around midnight. Then, I came back [to Mi---] alone, silently. Look at my shirt. It was very new."

- Saw H--- (male, 27), Te--- village, Kawkareik Township (March 10th 2011)

The assailants were not wearing uniforms, and KHRG has not been able to conclusively determine their affiliation. However, Saw H--- told KHRG that the men who attacked him were out-of-uniform Tatmadaw soldiers; a KHRG's researcher who is familiar the area where the incident occurred, believed Saw H---'s assertion to be credible for several reasons. First, Saw H--- said the men who beat him spoke in Burmese, and it is unlikely that either DKBA or KNLA soldiers in that area would have addressed Saw H---, a Karen man, in Burmese.

Further, To--- is an agricultural area with many corn plantations, and no village, but which hosts a small hilltop camp that had been recently occupied by Tatmadaw soldiers prior to the incident with Saw H---. The area is also regularly patrolled by Tatmadaw soldiers based at camps in Bler Doh and Thay Baw Boh. While there are at least three armed groups including the Tatmadaw active in the area, To--- is under nominal Tatmadaw control, and it is unlikely that anyone who was not a Tatmadaw soldier would have been able to stand, armed and in the open, on that part of the riverbank in the late afternoon, as Saw H---'s attackers did on February 20th.

The accusation leveled by Saw H---'s attackers that he had made and planted landmines also strongly implies an accusation of support for the armed activities of Karen armed groups against Tatamdaw forces. The KHRG researcher active in the area where Saw H--- was attacked noted that on February 19th, the day before the incident with Saw H---, a Tatmadaw patrol from Bler Doh was ambushed in an attack in which remote-detonated landmines were used, adding that this was not the first such attack in the area. KHRG could not confirm, however, whether Saw H---'s assailants were accusing him of involvement in the previous day's ambush near Bler Doh or in other armed activities.

If Saw H---'s attackers were indeed Tatmadaw soldiers, this incident would correspond to a worrying pattern of incidents reported by villagers to KHRG, of Tatmadaw soldiers carrying weapons and engaging in activities related to Tatmadaw military operations while dressed as civilians, particularly in the context of recent Tatmadaw military activities in Kawkareik Township.

 

Update No.63: March 5th 2011 - 11:30 am
Villager forced to wear Tatmadaw uniform while portering Tatmadaw supplies

On January 8th 2011, a KHRG researcher interviewed Maung S---, a 45-year-old resident of K--- village, Kawkareik Township. Maung S--- told KHRG that he had been forced to flee from his home due to increased conflict in the area since November 2010, and in particular because of abuses associated with an increased Tatmadaw presence near K---. Maung S--- explained how, on November 13th 2010, he had been forced by Tatmadaw soldiers to wear one of the soldiers' uniforms while portering Tatmadaw supplies to a location approximately three hours away. He believed that the soldiers wanted him to appear to be a Tatmadaw soldier, so that he would be attacked along with the actual Tatmadaw troops in case the party was ambushed by members of a Karen armed group. Maung S--- managed to escape during an ambush approximately an hour and a half after the party had left K---. He is currently seeking refuge at a discreet location near K---, and says he is monitoring the situation to determine when it will be safe to return to his home. The full transcript of Maung S---'s interview with KHRG is available as an Appendix to this update.

"Yes, I was worried. They wanted to make [it seem like] I was one of the Burma Army [Tatmadaw] soldiers so that when people attacked them, it would be including with me."

- Maung S--- (male, 45), K--- village, Kawkareik Township (January 2011)

  

Update No.62: March 5th 2011 - 11:00 am
Villager forced to wear Tatmadaw uniform while portering Tatmadaw supplies

On February 12th 2011 Naw S---, a 7-year-old-girl from Shwe Aye Myaing Village, Kawkareik Township, was injured by a landmine while returning to her village with her father. Naw S--- was injured in both of her legs when the bike her father was driving triggered a landmine that had been placed on a path near the village. The injury to her left leg is more serious, according to a doctor that treated the girl, and Naw S--- has now been hospitalized for more than 20 days. Naw S--- accompanied her father back to their village, because her father was worried that he would be accused of being a DKBA soldier if he was seen travelling alone by Tatmadaw soldiers active near Shwe Aye Myaing. Naw S---'s family had been staying in a discreet refuge site to protect themselves from physical security and human rights risks to civilians associated with continued Tatmadaw – DKBA conflict in Dooplaya District.

 

Update No.61: February 22nd 2011 - 7:00 pm
Woman and 8-month-old baby injured by mortar in Htee Ther Leh

On February 19th 2011, a mortar fell outside the home of Naw P---, a resident of Htee Theh Lay village, Kawkareik Township. The explosion injured both Naw P--- and her 8-month-old son, whom she was carrying on her back at the time. A KHRG researcher reported that Naw P--- suffered an injury to her neck; her infant son was injured on his right shoulder. The KHRG researcher who provided this information said that villagers in Htee Ther Leh had not received any warning that there would be fighting in the area at that time; and they did not know which armed group fired the mortar. The KHRG researcher also could not confirm whether Naw P--- and her son had received, or were currently receiving, any medical attention from any groups. KHRG has yet to confirm this incident separately.

 

Update No.60: February 22nd 2011 - 11:20 am
Villagers arrested, tortured by Tatmadaw soldiers in Oo Kreh Htah village

On February 11th 2011 two villagers were arrested and tortured by Tatmadaw soldiers outside Oo Kreh Htah village, Kawkareik Township, following accusations that they were DKBA soldiers. According to a KHRG researcher who spoke with a local source on February 13th 2011, Saw Y---, 20, from K--- village, and Saw M---, 35, from A--- village, returned to Oo Kreh Htah to retrieve charcoal they had left behind when they fled the area to protect themselves from ongoing conflict between Tatmadaw and DKBA forces. As the men were returning to the discreet location in which they are currently staying, they were arrested by Tatmadaw soldiers who accused them of being DKBA soldiers planning to stage guerilla attacks on Tatmadaw forces. Saw Y--- and Saw M--- were detained at a nearby camp, where their hands were bound behind their backs. During interrogation, they were punched, threatened and beaten with a knife and stabbed in the head as the interrogating soldiers attempted to elicit a confession. Saw M--- sustained two stab wounds on his head; Saw Y--- sustained a stab wound on his forehead and was threatened while a knife was held to his throat.

The next morning, the Tatmadaw soldiers sent for Saw Y--- and Saw M---'s village headman. According to KHRG's researcher, however, the village leader was afraid to meet Tatmadaw soldiers alone at their camp. Five elder community members, three men and two women, went to the camp instead of the village headman, and were able to negotiate the release of Saw Y--- and Saw M--- the same day.

 

Update No.59: February 21st 2011 - 4:51 pm
Villager shot twice by BGF soldier in Meh K'ner village

On February 10th 2011, a KHRG researcher spoke with local sources in Meh K'Ner village, Kawkareik Township, who reported that Saw B---, a resident of Meh K'Ner, had been shot twice in the side by Tatmadaw Border Guard Force (BGF) Battalion #1022 soldier Y Kaing on the evening of February 5th. The sources that spoke with KHRG said that Saw B--- had gone outside of Meh K'Ner earlier in the evening to gather his cattle from a pasture outside the village and, because he is hard of hearing, had not heard Y Kaing calling to him as he left the village. When Saw B--- returned later with his cattle, Y Kaing again called to him; this time Saw B--- noticed the BGF soldier calling to him and complied. According to KHRG's sources, Y Kaing appeared to be drunk and confronted Saw B--- for ignoring his earlier summons. Y Kaing then dismissed the villager; however, when Saw B--- turned around to return to his home, the BGF soldier shot him twice in the side at close range. Both bullets exited through the other side of A Kyaw's body, seriously injuring him. KHRG's researcher said that the shooting was reported to Saw Muh Hsah, the commander of BGF Battalion #1022, who then travelled from his home in Myawaddy Town to Meh K'Ner in order to transport Saw B--- to a hospital in C---, where his condition is reported to have improved.

 

Update No.58: February 21st 2011 - 4:50 pm
Looting and arbitrary taxation in Palu village

In early February 2011, local sources in the Palu village area of Kawkareik Township reported separate incidents in which Tatmadaw forces deployed in the area looted homes of villagers who have not remained in the Palu area, and issued a demand for a large monetary payment from villagers who have continued to stay in their homes. On February 6th, a unit of Tatmadaw soldiers based in Kyaw Ket village arrived in Palu village and looted property belonging to residents of Palu. According to local sources, the soldiers entered the currently-unoccupied homes of villagers who have been staying outside of Palu due to human rights and physical security concerns associated with ongoing conflict in the area since November 2010. The looted items were loaded onto a Tatmadaw truck and transported back to the Tatmadaw camp in Kyaw Ket.

On February 10th, the headman of Palu Pa Doh village called community members who have remained in Palu to a meeting at the village football field, and explained to the villagers that Tatmadaw Border Guard Force (BGF) commander Bo Gra Na had ordered him to collect 150,000 baht (US $4,910) from Palu Pa Doh residents. The Tatmadaw BGF commander did not specify the purpose for which the money would be used. The village made the payment two days later on February 12th. Local sources stated that the community feared that the headman would be arrested if they did not comply with the demand. Four villagers who own large corn plantations in the Palu area each paid 25,000 baht (US $818), while the rest of the community pooled financial resources to provide the remaining 50,000 baht (US $1636).

 

Update No.57: February 17th 2011 - 5:00 pm
Two civilians in Kyo G'Lee village found dead after being arrested, forced to porter for by Tatmadaw soldiers

On February 10th 2011, a KHRG researcher received a report from a local source in Kyo G'Lee village, Kawakareik Township, that two residents of Kyo G'Lee had been killed after being arrested by Tatmadaw soldiers. The source said that Saw G---, 25, and Saw R---, 18, had been arrested by Tatmadaw soldiers in the forest outside of Kyo G'Lee after clashes between Tatmadaw forces and Karen armed groups on January 29th. After their arrest, the men were forced to porter supplies, during which time they were beaten and not fed by Tatmadaw soldiers, according to the source that spoke with KHRG.

On February 7th, villagers in the area reported that Saw G--- and Saw R--- had been found dead in an area known locally as Gk'Baw Yoo Bplaw, which is a small mountain outside Kyo G'Lee village. The local source did not identify the Tatmadaw battalion that had arrested the two villagers, however previous KHRG information indicates that LIB #586, under Battalion Commander Nyaing Myo Han, was active in the Kyo G'Lee area in early January 2011.

Tatmadaw forced labour and threats of forced portering have also been reported in nearby Kyeh Doh village, Kawkareik Township. On February 10th, local sources told KHRG that Tatmadaw soldiers based at Kyeh Doh have instructed villagers to provide their own trucks and tractors to transport Tatmadaw supplies to Kyo G'Lee village; the vehicle owners were told that villagers would have to carry the supplies on foot if their vehicles were not available.

 

Update No.55: February 15th 2011 - 9:00 pm
Villager registration and movement restrictions in the Palu area

On January 30th 2011 at around 12:00 pm Tatmadaw commanders based in Palu Pa Doh village, Kawkareik Township, called a meeting with some villagers, village heads and religious leaders in the monastery in Palu Pa Doh village. According to local sources that spoke with KHRG, the Tatmadaw officers raised two main issues at the meeting. First, those present at the meeting were told that the Tatmadaw would require the registration of all villagers in the Palu area, in order to determine how many villagers were still staying in or near their villages, and how many were continuing to seek refuge in discreet locations on the Thailand side of the Moei River. The local sources reported that village heads had begun collecting the names of villagers who remained in the Palu area but that as of February 8th 2011 the lists had neither been completed nor handed over to the Tatmadaw.

The second issue raised by the Tatmadaw commanders at the meeting was to inform the village leaders and villagers in attendance that existing movement and communication restrictions would thereafter be strictly enforced on all residents remaining in the Palu area. According to local sources, villagers were told that contact with people outside the village – likely implying KNLA or DKBA soldiers active in Kawkareik Township – was forbidden. The sources that spoke with KHRG also explained that, since the end of December 2010, villagers from Palu Poe, Palu Pa Doh and Min Lat Bpaing villages who have remained in their villages have been required to secure permission documents to travel to and work at their agricultural projects. The travel documents allow villagers to leave their villages after 7:00 am and require them to return no later than 4:00 pm. The sources told KHRG that groups of residents have been coordinating their travel to minimize the documentation required, as multiple villagers have thus far been permitted to travel using a single document. This system, however, requires groups of villagers sharing a travel document to depart and return at the same time, since villagers must present their travel permission whenever entering or exiting their village.

 

Update No.54: February 15th 2011 - 9:00 pm
Landmines planted near Oo Kreh Htah village

On January 28th 2011, a group of residents of Oo Kreh Htah village, Kawkareik Township, who had fled fighting between DKBA and Tatmadaw LIB #403 troops between January 8th and 10th 2011, attempted to return to their village homes after observing that Tatmadaw troops had vacated the area. As they approached the village, one of the villagers' dogs stepped on a landmine that had been planted along the path on which the group was travelling, and the dog's front right leg was blown off. The dog is currently being cared for by its owner. A local source told KHRG that the villagers didn't know which armed group had planted the landmine, but that they thought it was the DKBA because the DKBA had previously warned the villagers that they had planted landmines near Oo Kreh Htah in order to prevent Tatmadaw troops from entering the village. In spite of this previous warning, as well as the detonation of the landmine that injured the dog, the group of villagers, who had previously been staying at unofficial refuge sites in Thailand, nonetheless chose to continue to the village and stay at their village homes.

Since November 2010, KHRG has reported that many villagers from eastern Kawkareik Township, including residents of Oo Kreh Htah, have faced serious obstacles to refuge at official and unofficial sites in Thailand. For example, on January 13th 2010, at 8:30 am in the morning, uniformed members of the Royal Thai Army burnt down shelters at a temporary refuge site in Oo Kreh Htah village, Phop Phra district, Tak Province, Thailand, in an effort to force the 436 villagers seeking refuge there to return to Burma. Caught between this proven unavailability of adequate protection in Thailand and the persistence of conflict-related dangers near their homes, villagers continue to have their options for adopting measures to maintain their own security and avoid human rights abuses – such as temporary displacement, while maintaining agricultural projects and monitoring developments in the military situation – seriously constrained.

 

Update No.53: February 15th 2011 - 4:50 pm
Villagers used as human shields by Tatmadaw troops

On January 27th 2011, at around 3:00 pm, KNLA troops in Kya In Township, Dooplaya District ambushed troops from Tatmadaw LID #22, while the latter were sending rations and supplies to other Tatmadaw troops on the front line of the current conflict in Dooplaya. The attack happened near Y--- village, which is approximately an hour on foot from Kyaikdon Town. During the attack, some Y--- villagers sought refuge in holes that they had specifically constructed near their homes as shelters to protect themselves and their families, in case fighting occurred in the area. While the KNLA attack against the Tatmadaw soldiers was taking place, the Tatmadaw soldiers came to the holes where the villagers were sheltering, and forced them to come out into the open at gunpoint. The villagers were then ordered to walk on either side of the column of Tatmadaw soldiers. The Tatmadaw practice of using civilians as human shields has been previously documented by KHRG; the practice serves both to mitigate death or injury to Tatmadaw soldiers from ambush or landmine attacks while traveling in the forest, as well as to force Karen armed groups to refrain from attacking, or limit attacks, to avoid causing death or injury to villagers. After the January 27th attack, the Tatmadaw troops told the Y--- villagers to return to their homes; however, many residents feared that they would be forced to walk alongside the Tatmadaw soldiers again during future attacks. For this reason, they did not dare to remain in Y--- village, and chose to flee to hiding sites in the forest. As of February 4th 2011, many of the Y--- villagers continued to hide in the forest near their village, but at least some had chosen to seek refuge at unofficial sites in Thailand.

 

 

Update No.52: February 8th 2011 - 11:30 pm
Three former convict porters confirm serious human rights abuses in the current conflict in Dooplaya District

On January 14th 2010, KHRG interviewed three former Tatmadaw convict porters with LIB #231 in the Palu area of eastern Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, opposite Thailand's Tak Province. The three interviewees are all from K--- Township, Magwe Division and were brought to the front line of the conflict in Karen State on January 3rd 2011 after being transferred from K--- prison to Pa'an prison on January 1st 2011. They told KHRG that they escaped from service as forced porters on January 10th 2011, following clashes between LIB #231 and armed Karen groups near Palu Pa Doh village. The men confirmed that the Tatmadaw is currently using large numbers of convict porters in the ongoing military offensive in Dooplaya District; they also reported serious incidents of human rights abuse occurring as standard practice, including: use of porters used to sweep for landmines, deprivation of adequate food and medical assistance to porters and the systemic extortion of civilians at every level of Burma's police, judicial and prison infrastructure.

"We had to [sweep for landmines]. … Other people saw them. I couldn't find any mines. Every porter had to do it. Sometimes people in the front had to do it. For people behind, they didn't need to do it. But sometimes people behind had to go to the front. They changed porters' places. They didn't keep us in the same place. They ordered porters in the front to find mines, clean the road and dig the holes [trenches]. … No porters got injured or sick but they said that if the porters did get injured by landmines, they would shoot them to death. They won't treat them. Even amongst themselves, the same soldiers, they don't feel sympathy. They told us like this: 'You will have to die even you don't want to die. We won't keep you alive.' They will kick us down to the valley."

- Maung C--- (male, 17), former convict porter with LIB #231, operating in Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (December 14th 2011)

 

"They told us 'This is the army. We will shoot you dead when you cannot carry [loads]. Especially, if you get sick, we will not cure you. It does not matter even if you die. Do not come and tell us that your legs are hurting; we will beat you and break all of your legs.' … I did not see it happen when I came to porter at this time. But, I know it is true that they kill porters. It was not just that they threatened us. They will really do it. The porters who had experiences also told us that they have seen the army kill the porters who could not carry the loads anymore. I served as a porter only for seven days. Therefore, I did not see them kill any porters, yet. But, we heard it happened later, after ten days."

- Maung A--- (male, 28), former convict porter with LIB #231, operating in Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (January 14th 2011)

 

Update No.51: January 28th 2011 - 9:30 pm
Villagers denied access to refuge in Thailand despite continued physical security, humanitarian concerns in Kawkareik Township

Amid increasing human rights abuses and threats to physical security, villagers fleeing conflict between DKBA and Tatmadaw forces in eastern Kawkareik Township continue to face obstacles to refuge in Thailand. On January 17th 2011, KHRG interviewed Saw M---, a resident of Ht--- village who is currently seeking refuge at a location on the Burma side of the Moei River. In his interview, Saw M--- confirmed that many villagers in eastern Kawkareik have fled their homes and their village areas to protect themselves and their families from ongoing conflict. However, many are currently staying along the riverbank on the Burma side of the Moei River, in security, health and living conditions that raise humanitarian concerns, because the Royal Thai Army [RTA] prevents them from crossing to Thailand until shelling or gunfire is audible. Saw M--- detailed the current situation faced by those who can neither return to their homes, nor obtain access to refuge in Thailand. He reported that major concerns among populations currently displaced in eastern Kawkareik are access to medical attention, long-term threats to food security and prolonged disruption to children's education. Saw M--- also described the ways in which some villagers have made arrangements to mitigate interruption to education by providing ad hoc lessons for their children during displacement. The full transcript of Saw M---'s interview with KHRG is available as an Appendix to this update.

 

 

Update No.50: January 24th 2011 - 5:15 pm
Updated map of affected areas of Pa'an District

KHRG's field team has completed an updated map of Pa'an District, with special attention to areas of eastern Pa'an along the Thailand – Burma border that have been impacted by conflict between the Tatmadaw and armed Karen groups since November 7th 2010. The map is available in the Map Room of the KHRG website and through the link provided below.

 

Update No.48: January 18th 2011 - 5:50 pm
Interviews with Tatmadaw deserters confirm earlier reported incidents of abuse and general threats to civilians

On January 11th 2010, KHRG interviewed two deserters from Tatmadaw battalions operating in eastern Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, opposite Thailand's Tak Province. These interviews provide confirmation of specific incidents reported earlier, as well as important insight on general threats to civilians' human rights and security in Kawkareik Township. Issues detailed in the interviews include confirmation of two incidents of rape and sexual violence committed by a Tatmadaw officer and soldiers, explicit orders from Tatmadaw officers to fire upon civilians, forced portering by villagers and confiscation of food supplies and other property.

"Three soldiers who followed their officer came back and told me that two girls were raped. After they raped her, the girl who was raped by the officer was killed. Her head was cut off. Another girl who was raped by them was killed like this. They did not cut off the girl's head. They stabbed her with a knife. I did not know the three soldiers who followed the officer, but their officer was the sergeant, Soe Than."

- Ko A---, 17 years old, former child soldier with the Tatmadaw LIB #202 (Interviewed on January 11th 2011)
 

The first soldier, Ko A---, was forcibly recruited at age 15; he is currently 17 years old. Ko A--- served with Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #202, under Battalion Commander Soe Than. Light Infantry Battalion #202 is currently based in Waw Lay village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District. Ko A--- was forcibly recruited to the Tatmadaw at age 15 and received just 20 days of military training before he was sent to the frontline in Karen State. The second soldier, Saw W---, 20 years old, was forcibly recruited after his parents and siblings were killed by Cyclone Nargis. Saw W--- served with LIB #586, under Battalion Commander Naing Myo Han, in the area of Kyo Gk'Lee and Gkwee Ta Uh villages, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District.

"Our leader gave us the order. If the fighting happens in a village, kill all the villagers in the village, burn down the village, or shell it with mortars. When we are sentries at night, if we see villagers traveling at night, even if we don't know whether they are villagers or not, if we see anyone, shoot them. He will take the responsibility. He said it like this."

- Saw W---, 20 years old, former soldier with the Tatmadaw, Light Infantry Battalion #586 (Interviewed on January 11th 2011)
 
 

Update No.47: January 14th 2011 - 9:30 pm
Thai army burns temporary refuge site, forces villagers fleeing fighting deeper into hiding

On January 13th 2011, a KHRG researcher in Kawkareik Township reported that fighting had occurred between DKBA and Tatmadaw forces in Oo Kreh Htah village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District on January 9th 2011. According to the KHRG researcher, there is a DKBA base in the forest near Oo Kreh Htah village and, on January 9th 2011, between 60 to 70 Tatmadaw soldiers of LIB #403 planned to attack this base. However, DKBA and KNLA soldiers in the area were aware of the planned attack and planted large remote-detonation devices. The KHRG researcher reported that four Tatmadaw soldiers died and seven more were injured when these mines detonated. In response, the Tatmadaw shelled mortars into the Oo Kreh Htah village area throughout the day on January 9th 2011, continuing into January 10th 2011. At least some shells were reported to have landed in the village.

"On January 9th 2011, there was an incident that happened in Oo Kreh Htah. The Burmese army wanted to go and take over the DKBA camp. They [the Tatmadaw] went and the DKBA ambushed them and hit them with remotely detonated landmines. Four of them [Tatmadaw soldiers] died and seven were injured. We can't get pictures because we dare not go there, but it is exact information. On the same day that they were attacked, they buried their friends there [where they were attacked] and, the next morning, on January 10th 2011, in the morning at about 8:00 am, they came back to Waw Lay. They [the Tatmadaw] sent seven of their soldiers who got injured to the Thai side [of the Moei River] and some people, maybe the Thai authorities, sent the injured [Tatmadaw] soldiers to Myawaddy."

- KHRG researcher, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (January 13th 2011)
 

The KHRG researcher also reported that, on January 9th 2011, many Oo Kreh Htah villagers fled to unofficial refuge sites in Thailand's Phop Phra district in order to protect themselves from physical harm during the conflict. KHRG spoke with Naw A---, a villager from Kawkareik Township, who is currently seeking refuge in Thailand's Phop Phra district. As of January 10th, this site was home to 436 people from 92 families; as of the same date, a total of 8,663 civilians displaced by fighting since November 2010 were seeking refuge and actively hiding from Thai authorities in Province.

"They [the Thai army] doesn't allow people [refugees] to stay [on the Thai side]. … The Thai army doesn't ask them to go back because they [the Thai army] doesn't see where those villagers are. The Thai army doesn't see them – [but] if they see them, they will ask them to go back. If they [the Thai army] doesn't see or hear any shelling or sounds of guns, they say, 'there is no fighting, go back to your country. You go back and then come back when the fighting happens there.' How can people dare to come when the fighting will happen again? People are afraid. I, myself, stay under wah koh [a grove of bamboo trees] now. How will people [Thai people] let you to stay in their house? We stay under wah koh. We don't have a toilet. We are in difficulty. We can do nothing. We have to stay like this."

- Naw A---, Phop Phra district, Tak Province, Thailand (Interviewed on January 13th 2011)
 

According to a KHRG researcher in Thailand's Phop Phra district, on January 13th 2010, at 8:30 am in the morning, uniformed members of the Royal Thai Army burnt down shelters at temporary a refuge site in Oo Kreh Htah village, Phop Phra district, Tak Province, Thailand, in an effort to force the 436 villagers seeking refuge to return to Burma. Most of the villagers who were staying at Oo Kreh Htah continue to seek refuge in discreet locations in Thailand, rather than return to Burma. Below is a quote from a KHRG researcher who monitored the situation; a complete transcript of the interview between the KHRG office and the KHRG researcher in Phop Phra district, who reported the burning of refuge shelters at Oo Kreh Htah, is available as an Appendix to this report.

"The shelters were burnt down at 8:30 am on the morning of January 13th 2011. … It was Thai Army soldiers in uniform who asked people to return. … I went to check this case in detail just now, but I saw soldiers standing there. There were one or two Thai soldiers. So, I dare not go there anymore. I passed by [instead]."

- KHRG researcher, Phop Phra district, Tak Province, Thailand (January 13th 2011)
 

 

Update No.46: January 14th 2011 - 9:20 pm
Physical abuse during interrogation and extended definition of civilian from Waw Lay

On December 11th 2010, five residents of Waw Lay village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, who had been seeking refuge in Thailand's Phop Phra District, went back to Waw Lay village to work in their fields. The villagers who went back were able to speak Burmese very well. One of the villagers, named G---, told a KHRG researcher that, when they returned, they were approached by some Tatmadaw soldiers from LIB #409, who sat down and drank alcohol with them. G--- told KHRG that, when he stood up to go to the bathroom, the Tatmadaw soldiers stopped, handcuffed and arrested him. He did not return to the unofficial refuge site where he had been staying in Thailand's Phop Phra District until December 26th 2010. When he returned on December 26th 2010, he had handcuff abrasions on both wrists and his face was bruised. He told a KHRG researcher that he had been bound and left in the sun for an hour everyday for ten days and, in the evenings, was kept in the same position with the handcuffs on. He said that the Tatmadaw fed him just enough to survive while he was detained in this way. On the eleventh day of his detainment, the battalion commander from LIB #401 reported the situation to the Operations Commander [G3]. The Operations Commander came and questioned him and he was released. The KHRG volunteer researcher photographed and spoke to G--- on December 26th 2010 and assisted with securing medical treatment for G---'s wounds and bruises.

"He was beaten on the whole body. His whole body was full of bruises. At his belly and his armpits were full of scars from knife cuts. Once a day he was interrogated. When he first came back, his left eye was very red and I worried something will become worse. But now he is better."

- KHRG volunteer researcher, Phop Phra district, Tak Province, Thailand (January 7th 2010)
 

 

Update No.45: January 7th 2011 - 5:20 pm
Thai Army sends 65 villagers back to Burma from temporary refuge 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.

On January 4th 2010, a KHRG researcher in the Mu Yoo Hta area reported that, on December 25th 2010, the Royal Thai Army [RTA] sent the 65 Noh Day villagers back to Burma from Mu Yoo Hta. Villagers told the KHRG researcher that the RTA had been requesting village leaders and owners of river transport boats to bring the villagers back to Burma for several days; on December 25th 2010 the villagers were then ordered to leave. According to the KHRG researcher, the Noh Day villagers did not return to their homes when they left Mu Yoo Hta on December 25th 2010, but instead went to stay at upper Ht--- in the Manerplaw area, Hlaing Bwe Township, Pa'an District. On December 22nd 2010, KHRG reported that there were over 300 villagers staying at upper Ht---, at sites on both sides of the Moei River, in Thailand and Burma. The fact that Noh Day villagers did not return home but went to join the group staying at upper Ht--- instead indicates that they believed they would still be at risk from human rights abuses if they returned to their homes at that time. This, in turn, strongly suggests that their decision to leave the site in Mu Yoo Hta was not voluntary.

On the morning of December 25th 2010, a KHRG researcher took photos of the Noh Day villagers at Mu Yoo Hta. Later that day, the RTA sent all 65 villagers back to Burma. Notably, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, at least 166 villagers were forced to return to Burma on the same day from a temporary site opposite Waw Lay village, Phop Phra District, Tak Province.

 

Update No.44: January 6th 2011 - 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. 

 

 

Update No.43: January 6th 2011 - 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 2011 - 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. 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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. 

"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. 

"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
Night time shelling and displacement in Maw Poe Gkloh village

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.

 

Update No.29: 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.

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 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 Thay Baw Boh 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.