Civilian and Military order documents: March 2008 to July 2011


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Civilian and Military order documents: March 2008 to July 2011

Published date:
Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This report includes translated copies of 207 order documents issued by military and civilian officials of Burma's central government, as well as non-state armed groups now formally subordinate to the state army as 'Border Guard' battalions, to village heads in eastern Burma between March 2008 and July 2011. Of these documents, at least 176 were issued from January 2010 onwards. These documents serve as primary evidence of ongoing exploitative local governance in rural Burma. This report thus supports the continuing testimonies of villagers regarding the regular demands for labour, money, food and other supplies to which their communities are subject by local civilian and military authorities. The order documents collected here include demands for attendance at meetings; the provision of money and food; the production and delivery of thatch, bamboo and other materials; forced recruitment into armed ceasefire groups; forced labour as messengers and porters for the military; forced labour on bridge construction and repair; the provision of information on individuals, households and non-state armed groups; and the imposition of movement restrictions. In almost all cases, demands were uncompensated and backed by implicit or explicit threats of violence or other punishments for non-compliance. Almost all demands articulated in the orders presented in this report involved some element of forced labour in their implementation.


[1] Pursuant to its obligations under Art.26 of the ILO Forced Labour Convention, the Burma government is obligated to apply the ban on forced labour 'to the territories placed under its sovereignty, jurisdiction, protection, suzerainty, tutelage or authority'. See ILO Forced Labour Convention 1930, Art. 26.

[2] While Tatmadaw and DKBA units have for years operated together, this operational hierarchy became formalised with the DKBA's transformation into a 'Border Guard Force' under control of the Tatmadaw and containing a fixed number quota of Tatmadaw officers. This transformation dates to at least May 2009, when commanding officers stated in high-level meeting of DKBA officers that the DKBA would transform itself into a 'Border Guard Force.' Leaked minutes from the May 2009 meeting are retained by KHRG on file. Ceremonies attended by Tatmadaw commanders officially announced the transformation of large portions of the DKBA into Border Guard Forces in September 2010. See, for example: "Border Guard Force formed at Atwinkwinkalay region, Myawady Township, Kayin State," New Light of Myanmar, September 2010.

[3] The Tatmadaw's consistent reliance on forced extraction of resources, labour and material support from the civilian population has been referred to as the 'live off the land' or 'self-reliance' policy by KHRG as well as respected scholars of Burma's military history. Andrew Selth, for example, dates the policy to 1997, when Burma's War Office reportedly issued an order instructing the country's Regional Commanders that troops "were to meet their basic logistical needs locally, rather than rely on the central supply system." See, Andrew Selth, Burma's Armed Forces: Power Without Glory, Norwalk: Eastbridge, 2002 p. 136. See also, Mary Callahan, "Of kyay-zu and kyet-zu: the military in 2006," pp. 36-53 in Monique Skidmore and Trevor Wilson (eds.), Myanmar: The State, Community and the Environment, Canberra: Asia Pacific Press, 2007 p. 46.

[4] For more on the relationship between abuses such as forced labour and food insecurity, see Food crisis: The cumulative impact of abuse in rural Burma, KHRG, April 2009. For more on the relationship between abuses such as forced labour and displacement, see Abuse, Poverty and Migration: Investigating migrants' motivations to leave home in Burma, KHRG, June 2009. See also, "Central Papun District: Village-level decision making and strategic displacement," KHRG, August 2010.

[5] Noted in Richard Horsey, Ending Forced Labour in Myanmar: Engaging a pariah regime. New York: Routledge, 2011, pp.15 fn.39.

[6] For a discussion of the ways in which local communities respond to abuse such as forced labour, see: "Supporting local responses to extractive abuse: Commentary on the ND-Burma report Hidden Impact," KHRG, September 2010.