Situation Update | Ler Doh Township, Nyaunglebin District (August to October 2011)
The following situation update was written by a villager in Nyaunglebin District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security. This report was received along with other information from Nyaunglebin District, including six interviews and 156 photographs.
Human rights abuses committed by the SPDC Army [Tatmadaw] have decreased in Ler Doh [Kyauk Kyi] Township, but there are a few human rights violations still caused by the SPDC Army. Villagers also face problems because of abnormal weather. Because of these issues, villagers have faced many problems. For the villagers who live in mountainous areas, there was a lot of SPDC Army activity in the area in 2010, so villagers have faced a food crisis this year [in 2011]. For the villagers who live within SPDC Army-controlled areas, three months of flooding affected many paddy fields, destroying the paddy. About 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) of paddy fields were flooded.
SPDC Army battalions and locations
The SPDC Army [units] that operate in Ler Doh Township are LID [Light Infantry Division] #101 and Southern Command Headquarters units IBs [Infantry Battalions] #60, #57 and #53, and LIBs [Light Infantry Battalions] #351, #264, #439, #435, #430 and #439. These army units operate in the bplaw [flat and treeless, or plains] area, and there are a few kinds of human rights violations that have decreased compared with the past. The government changed their administrative [structure] a little to include civilian government [officials]. They appointed administrators in each village tract and these administrators collect money from villagers, causing a big problem for villagers.
Villagers’ situation in mountain areas
In 2010, there were a lot of SPDC Army operations in mountain areas. This year, villagers faced a food crisis, so the villagers reported this to the KNU [Karen National Union] and the KNU will have to arrange food for the villagers so that the villagers can stay and survive in the area. The villagers do not want to leave their homes.
In the beginning of 2009, villagers in T--- village tract organised and established a group of young people who can leh gkeh gkay gkeh [endure strenuous work] and track SPDC Army movements for them so they can work freely. In 2010, the group received more members. There are over 40 people in the group and they call their group Mu Kha Poe [‘angel’ in Karen]. These villagers bring guns with them on their patrols, but the guns they bring are not machine guns; they are guns for shooting animals [hunting muskets]. They resist the SPDC Army and they asked for guns from the organisation and were allowed to carry the guns. Villagers established Mu Kha Poe to provide security in the whole village tract for villagers to be able to work freely. Each member of Mu Kha Poe has to spend five days on duty and can then resume their normal village lives [until their next period of duty]. They gather all members [of Mu Kha Poe] and provide security in the village tract when there are SPDC Army activities in the area.
Now [organisation censored for security] supports them with walkie-talkies for communication. So they have good communication between each other during their patrols and when they search out signs of the SPDC Army. [If they see Tatmadaw soldiers] along the paths on which SPDC Army troops head to the villages, they fire a gun to alert the villagers. Then villagers in the village flee into the jungle. Villagers do this to protect themselves.
Villagers’ situation in areas under SPDC Army control
Villagers who live under the control of the SPDC Army are faced with forced labour, demands for money and different kinds of restrictions.
On September 9th 2011, Battalion Commander Khin Htun of IB #60 ordered ten villagers of N--- and 15 villagers from A--- to go and clear [undergrowth] in the palm oil plantation at IB #60 Battalion Headquarters. It takes one hour to walk from the villages to the camp. Bo Khin Htun came and took three pway [Burma Ironwood trees] from an N--- villager that the villager planned to use for electricity poles. Then this commander [Khin Htun] also took 30 pieces of two-by-three inch and two-by-four inch lumber from loggers named Saw A---, Saw G--- and Saw H---. The commander did not ask permission from these villagers when he took these villagers’ wood. He just took what he wanted. The N--- village head, Saw Kl---, gave me this information.
The wives of soldiers from IB #60 under the command of Bo Khin Htun, have to go and attend military training in Tw---. For this training, Bo Khin Htun demanded firewood from N--- and A--- village. Each household had to provide a bundle of firewood, put it in bag and store it beside the vehicle road. There are 100 households [between these two villages combined]. Once a year, these soldiers’ wives go and attend training in Tw---.
On September 9th 2011, LIB #345, based in Payalinko, demanded ten durians from T--- village. The T--- village head had to organise to provide the durians for them. This village head told me about this issue. The military administrator who lives in Ler Doh Town also demanded 1,000 kyat (US $1.30) from each household. People who live in Ler Doh Town also have to pay 1,000 kyat fee for militia [salaries]. So people who live in Ler Doh Town have to pay 2,000 kyat (US $2.60) every month. Saw C---, a villager who lives in Y--- section [of Ler Doh Town] told me about this information. The SPDC Army units active in Ler Doh Township forced village heads in Ler Doh Township to sign a guarantee that the KNLA will not to come and attack them. The SPDC Army units always give villagers trouble after fighting has happened, which poses a problem for villagers.
In bplaw [flat and treeless, or plains] areas, the Sittaung River flooded for three months, so many paddy fields were destroyed and villagers now face serious difficulties related to their future livelihoods. Many houses and villages were flooded, but there is no support. Villages that were flooded are: Tha Say, Kyun Gyi, Hintha Wei, Lay Bin Weh, Weh La Daw, Noh Ghaw, Htaik Htoo, Saw Mu Thel, Taw Lu Koh, Noh Poe, Po Lo Noh Soe, Bpa Ta Lah, Sweh Dtee, and Su Kin Tha Yan. These villages were flooded for three months, so villagers in these villages have been without places to stay and food to eat. There is no support for them, so this has become a big problem for the villagers. The flooding started in August and continued into October. Many paddy fields were destroyed.
Villages do not get [have access to] good health care. In mountain areas of T--- village tract, there is one Back Pack [Back Pack Health Worker Team (BPHWT) mobile clinic] and there is the M--- clinic in the H--- [area]. P--- village tract receives health care support whenever they can get it. Villagers in flatland areas in the SPDC Army-controlled areas do not receive health care support. They do not have clinics in their villages. They have to go and buy medicine in Ler Doh Town. They can not get medical treatment if they do not have money. Even if they go to a public hospital, if they do not have money, they will not get treatment. In bplaw [flat and treeless, or plains] areas, [some villages] receive medical treatment from Back Pack and other villages receive medical health care when FBR [Free Burma Rangers] comes to their area. They never get [health care] from the [Burma] government.
Children do not receive a good education because their parents are poor and cannot send their children to school. Children who should go to school cannot go to school. Children [also] cannot go to high school if their parents do not have money. Now, school teachers do not teach well. Students have to hire kyu sin, wai kyu sin or shell wai [different types of private tutors]. There are many types of kyu sin; to hire the wai kyu sin, students have to pay 50,000 kyat (US $64.94) per month and for the shell wai, they have to pay up to 100,000 kyat (US $129.87). So students who do not have money cannot get a higher education. Villagers in bplaw [flatland] areas cannot send their children to school and this has become a big problem. Free education is also not provided for the lower standards [primary and middle school]. Poor families who do not have enough food cannot even send their children to primary and middle school. Children who should go to school cannot go to school; they have to work with their parents.
For the mountain areas, [children] get free education as much as possible. They get support, like notebooks, from the KED [Karen Education Department]. Some parents do not have enough food, so they ask their children to work with them. Those children cannot go to school.
Burmese government projects
The Burmese government built a dam on the Khay Loh [Shwegyin] River and many places were flooded [due to the dam]. Now they will build another dam on the Theh Loh River. They plan to build the dam in 2012. Villagers [in the area] worry for their future lives. If the dam is successfully built, villagers will face difficulties related to travel, places to live and their livelihoods.
Even though villagers face problems, they gather together and work together, so they can do as much as they can to secure their livelihoods related to food and travel. They do not feel sad and disappointed even though there are problems. They try and work hard so they can get by year after year.