Tenasserim Interview: Saw P---, Received in May 2011


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Tenasserim Interview: Saw P---, Received in May 2011

Published date:
Saturday, October 1, 2011

This report contains the full transcript of an interview conducted during May 2011 in Te Naw Th’Ri Township, Tenasserim Division by a villager trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. The villager interviewed Saw P---, the 36-year-old head of a village in which Tatmadaw soldiers maintain a continuous presence. Saw P--- described the disappearance of a male villager who has not been seen since February 2010 when he was arrested by Tatmadaw soldiers as he was returning from his hill plantation, on suspicion of supplying food assistance to Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) troops. Saw P--- also described human rights abuses and livelihoods difficulties faced regularly by villagers, including: forced labour, specifically road construction and maintenance; taxation and demands for food and money; theft of livestock; and movement restrictions, specifically the imposition of road tolls for motorbikes and the prohibition against travel to villagers’ agricultural workplaces, resulting in the destruction of crops by animals. Saw P--- also expressed concerns about disruption of children’s education caused by the periodic commandeering of the village school and its use as a barracks by Tatmadaw soldiers. He explained how villagers respond to abuses and livelihoods challenges by avoiding Tatmadaw soldiers, harvesting communally, sharing food supplies and inquiring at the local jail to investigate the disappearance of a fellow villager.


[1] KHRG trains villagers in eastern Burma to document individual human rights abuses using a standardised reporting format; conduct interviews with other villagers; and write general updates on the situation in areas with which they are familiar. When conducting interviews, villagers are trained to use loose question guidelines, but also to encourage interviewees to speak freely about recent events, raise issues that they consider to be important and share their opinions or perspectives on abuse and other local dynamics.

[2] When these documents have been processed and translated by KHRG and when sufficient information has been compiled and analysed, a full Field Report on the situation in Tenasserim Division will be available on the KHRG website. Until then, KHRG's most recent analysis of the situation in Tenasserim Division can be found in the recent Field Report, "Militarization, Development and Displacement: Conditions for villagers in southern Tenasserim Division," KHRG, March 2011.

[3] In Karen, the Burmese phrases Na Wa Ta (SLORC) and Na Ah Pa (SPDC) are commonly used to refer to the Burmese government or to Burma's state army, the Tatmadaw. Many older Karen villagers who were accustomed to using the phrase Na Wa Ta (SLORC) before 1997 continue to use that phrase, even though the SLORC has not officially existed since 1997. Similarly, despite the official dissolution of the SPDC in March 2011, many Karen villagers continue to use the phraseNa Ah Pa (SPDC) to refer to the Burmese government or to the Tatmadaw; see: "Mission Accomplished as SPDC 'dissolved'," Myanmar Times, April 4-10 2011. The term Na Ah Pa was used by the interviewer and interviewee, and "SPDC" is therefore retained in the translation of this interview.

[4] All conversion estimates for the Kyat in this interview are based on the fluctuating informal exchange rate rather than the government's official fixed rate of 6.5 kyat to US $1. As of September 27th 2011, this unofficial rate of exchange was US $1 = 815 kyat. This figure is used for all calculations above.

[5] Originally called the Anti-Fascist Organisation (AFO), which was formed in August 1944 as a coalition of Communist Party of Burma (CPB), People's Revolutionary Party (PRP) and Burma National Army (BNA) members, the AFPFL was not officially outlawed until 1962, despite being effectively destroyed by a factional split in April 1958 and by the subsequent inception, in October 1958, of the military 'caretaker' administration under the leadership of Ne Win. See Smith, Burma: Insurgency and the politics of ethnic insurgency, pp. 60 – 87; 175 – 80; 195 - 206.

[6] Notably, the United Nations Security Council, as part of its agenda to improve protection for children affected by armed conflict, has explicitly urged parties to armed conflict to 'to refrain from actions that impede children's access to education'; see: Resolution 1998, S/RES/1998, July 12th 2011, paragraph 4.

[7] The term wan hsaung or 'public service personnel' has been used euphemistically by military and civilian officials in the Burma government to refer to convict porters, that is convicts pulled from civilian prisons and forced to porter military supplies and equipment in frontline conflict areas. See From Prison to Front Line: Analysis of convict porter testimony 2009 – 2011, KHRG, July 2011. It could not be inferred from the context of this interview whether Saw P--- was referring to convict porters or to some other form of labour.

[8] 'Aunt' and 'uncle' are familiar terms of respect attributed to older women and men; they do not necessarily signify here any actual familiar ties between the 'aunts and uncles' and the interviewee.