Thaton Interview Transcript: Saw T---, April 2011

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Thaton Interview Transcript: Saw T---, April 2011

Published date:
Friday, February 24, 2012

This report contains the full transcript of an interview conducted during April 2011 in Pa'an Township, Thaton District by a villager trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. The villager interviewed Saw T---, a 60-year-old Buddhist farmer and village head, who described demands for forced labour that occurred during 2011, including for guide duty and the production of thatch shingles and bamboo poles. Saw T---noted that Karen language is not permitted to be taught in the village school, and expressed concerns over the absence of a medical clinic in the village and a lack of rain during the previous year that resulted in a marked decrease in paddy outputs. Saw T--- noted that villagers share food to deal with increasing food insecurity and described an instance in which villagers only partially complied with a forced labour demand, producing and delivering only 300 thatch shingles to Tatmadaw soldiers, instead of the 500 that had been demanded.

Footnotes

[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] In order to increase the transparency of KHRG methodology and more directly communicate the experiences and perspectives of villagers in eastern Burma, KHRG aims to make all field information received available on the KHRG website once it has been processed and translated, subject only to security considerations. As companion to this, a redesigned website will be released in 2012. In the meantime, KHRG's most recently-published field information from Thaton District can be found in the Report, "Thaton Interview: U Kh---, December 2011, " KHRG, February 2012.

[3] In Karen, the Burmese phrases Na Ah Pa (SPDC) and Na Wa Ta (SLORC) are commonly used to refer to the Burmese government or to Burma’s state military, 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] 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 Forces of South-East Command formed in Paingkyon of Kayin State," New Light of Myanmar, August 22nd 2010; and "Border Guard Force formed at Atwinkwinkalay region, Myawady Township, Kayin State," New Light of Myanmar, August 25th 2010.

[5] 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 October 6th 2011, this unofficial rate of exchange was US $1 = 830 kyat. This figure is used for all calculations above.

[6] The amounts given here refer to the weight of milled rice, but are included to provide an idea of the quantity of goods being discussed.