Papun Interview: Saw T---, December 2011


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Papun Interview: Saw T---, December 2011

Published date:
Monday, July 16, 2012

This report contains the full transcript of an interview conducted during December 2011 in Bu Tho Township, Papun District by a community member trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. The community member interviewed a 40-year-old Buddhist monk, Saw T---, who is a former member of the Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Border Guard, who described activities pertaining to Border Guard Battalion #1013 based at K'Hsaw Wah, Papun District. Saw T--- described human rights abuses including the forced conscription of child soldiers, or the forcing to hire someone in their place, costing 1,500,000 Kyat (US $1833.74). This report also describes the use of landmines by the Border Guard, and how villagers are forced to carry them while acting as porters. Also mentioned, is the on-going theft of villagers money and livestock by the Border Guard, as well as the forced labour of villagers in order to build army camps and the transportation of materials to the camps; the stealing of villagers' livestock after failing to provide villagers to serve as forced labour, is also mentioned. Saw T--- provides information on the day-to-day life of a soldier in the Border Guard, describing how villagers are forcibly conscripted into the ranks of the Border Guard, do not receive treatment when they are sick, are not allowed to visit their families, nor allowed to resign voluntarily. Saw T--- described how, on one occasion a deserter's elderly father was forced to fill his position until the soldier returned. Saw T--- also mentions the hierarchical payment structure, the use of drugs within the border guard and the training, which he underwent before joining the Border Guard. Concerns are also raised by Saw T--- to the community member who wrote this report, about his own safety and his fear of returning to his home in Papun, as he feels he will be killed, having become a deserter himself as of October 2nd 2011.


[1] KHRG trains community members 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, community members 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 Papun District can be found in the Report, "Photo Set: Villagers register concerns about proposed Hatgyi Dam," KHRG, June 2012.

[3] The Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO) is the former name of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). The KNDO is a militia force of local volunteers trained and equipped by the KNLA and incorporated into its battalion and command structure; its members wear uniforms and typically commit to two-year terms of service.

[4] The DKBA was formed in December 1994, led by monk U Thuzana and with the help and support of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), which was the name of the military government in Burma at that time. For more information on the formation of the DKBA, see "Inside the DKBA," KHRG, 1996.

[5] 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.

[6] U Thuzana is an influential Buddhist monk based in Myaing Gyi Ngu who was instrumental in the formation of the DKBA in 1994; see "Inside the DKBA," KHRG, March 1996.

[7] As of June 29th 2012, all conversion estimates for the Kyat in this report are based on the official market rate of 818 Kyat to the 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.

[8] Saw T--- has responded to the question by stating the name of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) battalion, K'Hsaw Wah 'White Elephant' Special Battalion #777. From Saw T---'s description of his time with the DKBA earlier in the interview it is clear that he was operating with K'Hsaw Wah Battalion, and it is likely that, in response to the question posed he was referring to his time with the DKBA as he clearly states that while he was operating with the Border Guard, his battalion's number was #1013.

[9] Hkoh Nee Hkoh translates as, "Salween River bank." The Salween River marks Papun's Eastern border with Thailand.

[10] Although the interviewer is asking the deserter whether or not he has seen Border Guard soldiers engaging in the raping of women, and seems to be accepting that this situation was an instance of un-consensual sex, it is likely that this is an instance of prostitution.

[11] The Shan people are an ethnic minority hailing from Shan State in North East Burma. The Shan State Army (SSA) is divided into the Shan State Army North and Shan State Army South. It was formed on April 24th 1964 when the Shan State Independence Army (SSIA) and the Shan National United Front (SNUF) merged together under the leadership of Sao Hearn Hkam, Mahadevi of Yawnghwe, and the First Lady of the Union of Burma (1948-52) see, "Shan Army Holds Anniversary" Burma News International, 25th April 2012.

[12] The United Wa State Army (UWSA) is the military wing of the United Wa State Party (UWSP). Formed in 1989 after the collapse of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) it has an estimated 30,000 troops and is regarded as the strongest ethnic army operating in Burma. They control large areas of land on the Chinese-Burma border, see "Burma blocks Wa army-linked airline," Democratic Voice of Burma 26th November 2010 and "Myanmar's Wa: Likely Losers in the Opium War," Asia Times, January 24th 2004.