Thaton Interview: Naw D---, May 2011


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Thaton Interview: Naw D---, May 2011

Published date:
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

This report contains the full transcript of an interview conducted in May 2011 by a villager trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. The villager interviewed Naw D---, a 48-year-old community leader in a government-controlled area of Pa’an Township, Thaton District, who described regular and ongoing demands for villagers to perform forced labour as messengers for local civilian and military officials, as well as challenges faced by villagers with regard to the cost and provision of education for children and access to healthcare. Naw D--- also expressed concerns regarding the debt burden on villagers who rent agricultural land and farm using rented animals and equipment; according to Naw D---, villagers are forced to provide landowners a disproportionate share of their harvested yields, leaving insufficient paddy for themselves and their families, leading to subsequent food shortages. She explained certain strategies villagers have adopted to address concerns, including the establishment of a community healthcare committee and a community health fund which work to assist villagers with health-related issues and to cover the costs incurred by villagers seeking care outside the village.


[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: Daw Ny---, April 2011," KHRG, January 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] Set tha is a Burmese term for forced labour duty as a messenger stationed at army camps or bases and serving as a go-between to deliver orders from army officers to village heads, but also involving other menial tasks when no messages are in need of delivery.

[5] KHRG has previously reported the implementation of UNDP-sponsored projects in the H--- area under the auspices of the Community Development in Remote Townships (CDRT) initiative; see: Growing up under militarisation: Abuse and agency of children in Karen State, KHRG, April 2008, pp. 16 – 17; "State agencies, armed groups and the proliferation of oppression in Thaton District," KHRG, September 2007; and KHRG Photo Gallery 2007: Health and education, Photos B37 – 39.

[6] Unit of volume used to measure paddy, husked rice and seeds. One basket is equivalent to 20.9 kg. / 46.08 lb. of paddy or 32 kg. / 70.4 lb. of husked rice.

[7] 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.