Thaton Situation Update: Hpa-an Township, January to June 2012
Thaton Situation Update: Hpa-an Township, January to June 2012
This report includes a situation update submitted to KHRG in June 2012 by a community member describing events occurring in Thaton District, during the period between January to June 2012. Specifically, it describes villagers' education, their livelihood and explains how some of the villagers who have to go and work in other countries because of the lack of opportunities in their area. This report also presents detailed information about companies that have cooperated with KSDDP leaders (formerly DKBA) and BGF Battalion #1014 soldiers to confiscate land for rubber and teak plantations and, consequently, have forced the civilians to clear and plant tress in the plantation without providing wages. Also reported, is forced recruitment committed by one former DKBA leader, Moe Nyo. This report describes changes in the activity of the Tatmadaw and contains information on the villagers' concerns about Tatmadaw troop movement following the 2012 ceasefire.
 As of January 2013, KHRG began to use the common spelling for "Hpa-an" District to reflect the standardized transliteration developed in 2012; past KHRG reports used "Pa'an."
 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 writing situation updates, community members 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.
 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, "Torture and killing in Thaton District," KHRG, October 2012.
 In the context of this report, it is likely that the community member uses the term "rich people" to refer to individual people and people affiliated with companies that have the resources to fund business enterprises in the area.
 The perpetrator of this abuse may have been claiming authority under one of the Burma government laws that allows rights to land to be transferred from villagers to private entities. The Wasteland Instructions Law (1991) enabled both domestic and foreign investment in large-scale commercial enterprises through transfer of use rights to designated "wasteland" (or "vacant, fallow and virgin land"). This practice was recently reaffirmed by the Vacant, Fallow, Virgin Land Law (2012). As development has increased in southeastern Burma since the signing of the government-KNU ceasefire in January 2012, KHRG has received an increasing number of complaints of confiscation of "uncultivated land" or "wasteland". For KHRG documentation of land confiscation arising from development projects, see: Losing Ground: Land conflicts and collective action in eastern Myanmar, KHRG, March 2013. For summary and analysis of the legal and policy framework relating to land management in Burma, see: Legal Review of Recently Enacted Farmland Law and Vacant Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law, Food Security Group - Land Core Group, November 2012.
 As of February 26th 2012, all conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the official market rate of 860 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.
 Border Guard battalions of the Tatmadaw were established in 2010, and they are composed mostly of soldiers from former non-state armed groups, such as older constellations of the DKBA, which have formalized ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government and agreed to transform into battalions within the Tatmadaw. Border Guard battalions are assigned four digit battalion numbers, whereas regular Tatmadaw infantry or light infantry battalions are identified by two or three digit battalion numbers. For more information, see "DKBA officially becomes Border Guard Force" Democratic Voice of Burma, August 2010, and, "Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa'an District," KHRG, June 2009.
 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 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 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 interview.
 The ceasefire agreement signed between the KNU and RUM officials on January 12th 2011 in Hpa'an Town, was an agreement in principle on '11 key points', to be followed by more in-depth talks after 45 days. Senior KNU officials had since announced that the deadline of 45 days was unlikely to be met; see: "KNU ceasefire meeting with government behind schedule," Karen News, February 23rd 2012. Meanwhile, as-yet-unpublished KHRG information received on February 19th 2012, suggests that there have been clashes between government forces and non-state armed groups in Hpa-an District in February 2012 and that recent re-supply operations carried out by Tatmadaw forces in Nyaunglebin District exceeded the amount of supplies usually sent, and included heavy artillery. Local media sources have also reported ongoing fighting in Hpa-an and Nyaunglebin Districts since January 12th 2012; see: "Killings and attacks between DKBA and BGF drives villagers from their homes," Karen News, February 24th 2012; "Ceasefires, Continued Attacks and a Friendly Encounter Between Enemies," Free Burma Rangers, February 3rd 2012. For information on KHRG's position regarding the 2012 ceasefire, see its commentary "Steps towards peace: Local participation in the Karen ceasefire process," KHRG, November 2012.
 Although the community member uses "miles," it is known that in other districts, troop movements are limited to 200 yards from the roadside. See "Papun Situation Update: Dweh Loh Township, January to March 2012," KHRG May 2012.