Pa'an Situation Update: Nabu Township, September 2011 to January 2012


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Pa'an Situation Update: Nabu Township, September 2011 to January 2012

Published date:
Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This report includes a situation update submitted to KHRG in January 2012 by a villager describing events occurring in Pa'an District between September 2011 and January 2012, and contains updated information concerning military activity in the area, specifically Border Guard Battalion #1017's use of forced labour and their planting of landmines. In September 2011, over 200 villagers from Th---, Sh---, G--- and M--- were forced to harvest beans and corn, an incident which is also described in the report "Pa'an Situation Update: September 2011", published by KHRG on November 25th 2011. Villagers are also described as being forced to porter rations, ammunition and landmines, and carry out various tasks at Battalion #1017's camp. The pervasive presence of landmines has resulted in the deaths of two villagers and injuries to eight others in Sh--- and K--- village tracts, as well as the deaths of villagers' livestock. Information is also provided on the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) ceasefire with the Tatmadaw and their subsequent transformation into the Border Guard, and how this has reduced the capacity of soldiers to engage in mining and logging enterprises. The subsequent increase in pressure on villagers by DKBA and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) troops to resist Border Guard military recruitment demands had meant that village heads often fled, rather than serve their one-year term. Villagers' perspectives on the January 2012 ceasefire agreement between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Burma government are also outlined, as are villagers' responses to abuses, including the introduction of a village head system that rotates on a monthly basis.


[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 writing situation updates, villagers are encouraged to summarise recent events, raise issues that they consider to be important, and present their opinions or perspective on abuse and other local dynamics in their area.

[2] This incident of forced labour is also described in a previously published report, "Pa'an Situation Update: September 2011," KHRG, October 2011.

[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 army, the Tatmadaw. Many older Karen villagers who were accustomed to using the phraseNa 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 phrase Na Ah Pa (SPDC) to refer to the Burmese government or to the Tatmadaw; see: "Mission Accomplished as SPDC 'dissolved',"Myanmar Times, April 4-10th 2011. The term Na Ah Pa was used by the villager who wrote this conducted this interview and interviewee and "SPDC" is therefore retained in the translation of this report.

[4] As of May 2nd 2012, all conversion estimates for the kyat in this report/interview are based on a rate of 818 kyat to US $1. This reflects new measures taken by Burma's central bank on April 2nd 2012 to initiate a managed float of the kyat, thus replacing the previous fixed rate of 6.5 kyat to US $1.

[5] DKBA forces in Pa'an and Dooplaya districts that refused to transform into Tatmadaw Border Guard battalions and which, in November 2010, began fighting Tatmadaw forces have been variously referred to as DKBA #907, Klo Htoo Baw (Golden Drum), and Brigade #5. Each of these terms refers to different configurations of DKBA units commanded by the brigadier general commonly known as Na Kha Mway, whose real name is Saw Lah Pwe. Na Kha Mway left the KNU/KNLA in 1997 and became the commander of DKBA Battalion #907; in 2007 he was promoted to head four DKBA battalions (#901, #906, #907 and a security battalion) as the commander of the Klo Htoo Baw [Golden Drum] Tactical Command. In May 2009 this unit was reconfigured as DKBA Brigade #5, with Na Kha Mway commanding Battalions #901, 905, 906, 907 and 909; Brigade #5 was active in the Kya-In Seik Kyi, Kawkareik and Myawaddy areas of Dooplaya and Pa'an districts. In September 2011, it was reported that remaining DKBA forces were to be reconfigured into two tactical commands, Klo Htoo Wah andKlo Htoo Lah, and that Na Kha Mway would be the senior commander of these forces. Most recently, in early November 2011, Brigade #5 signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in which demands for its forces to transform into Border Guard units have been dropped, and the brigade has moved to reestablish its headquarters at Wah Lay, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (Sone Seen Myaing, Myawaddy Township); see: "DKBA to accelerate military tactics,"The Irrawaddy, September 8th 2011; and "DKBA Brigade 5 Reaches Ceasefire with Naypyidaw," The Irrawaddy, November 4th 2011. For more on the origins of the current conflict and the transformation of DKBA troops into Border Guard battalions, see: "Protection concerns expressed by civilians amidst conflict in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts," KHRG, November 2010.

[6] 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.