Papun Situation Update: Dwe Lo Township, March 2012 to March 2013

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Papun Situation Update: Dwe Lo Township, March 2012 to March 2013

Published date:
Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This report includes a situation update submitted to KHRG in May 2013 by a community member describing events occurring in Papun District mostly between March 2012 and March 2013, and also provides details on abuses since 2006. The report specifically describes incidents of forced labour, theft, logging, land confiscation and gold mining. The situation update describes military activity from August 2012 to January 2013, specifically Tatmadaw soldiers from Infantry Battalion (IB) #96 ordering villagers to make thatch shingles and cut bamboo. Moreover, soldiers stole villagers' thatch shingles, bamboo canes and livestock. It also describes logging undertaken by wealthy villagers with the permission of the Karen National Union (KNU) and contains updated information concerning land confiscation by Tatmadaw Border Guard Force (BGF) Battalions #1013 and #1014. The update also reports on gold mining initiatives led by the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) that started in 2010. At that time, civilians were ordered to work for the DKBA, and their lands, rivers and plantations were damaged as a result of mining operations. The report also notes economic changes that accompanied mining. In previous years villagers could pan gold from the river and sell it as a hedge against food insecurity. Now, however, options are limited because they must acquire written permission to pan in the river. This situation update also documents villager responses to abuses, and notes that an estimated 10 percent of area villagers favour corporate gold mining, while 90 percent oppose the efforts.

Footnotes

[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 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.

[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 2013. In the meantime, KHRG's most recently published field information from Papun District can be found in the report, "BGF and KNLA grenades injure villagers and their children in Papun District," KHRG, July 2013.

[3] The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), formerly the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, was formed in December 1994 and was originally a breakaway group from the KNU/KNLA that signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burma government and directly cooperated at times with Tatmadaw forces. The formation of the DKBA was led by monk U Thuzana with the help and support of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), 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. The DKBA now refers to a splinter group from those DKBA forces reformed as Tatmadaw Border Guard Forces, also remaining independent of the KNLA. As of April 2012, the DKBA changed its name from "Buddhist" to "Benevolent" to reflect its secularity.

[4] In Karen, the Burmese phrases Na Ah Pa (SPDC) and Na Wa Ta (SLORC) are commonly used to refer to the Burma 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.

[5] Dog fruit, also known as jengkol, is a bean containing sulphur and a mildly toxic amino acid. It is native to Southeast Asia and is commonly eaten with rice and fish paste.

[6] Wa thoh is a smooth species of bamboo with long joints and medium-sized leaves.

[7] The community member used SPDC here to indicate that the village head was either appointed to his position by the SPDC during its existence or more recently by Tatmadaw authorities.

[8] 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.

[9] K'haw la is a kind of palm tree with leaves that can be fashioned into thatch shingles.

[10] T'la aw trees are teak-like trees with large leaves, which are traditionally collected by villagers and used to make thatch shingles for the roofs of houses.

[11] It is possible the chemicals referenced here might be a consequence of gold cyanidation. This process involves placing crushed ore into piles where a cyanide solution is poured over it to dissolve the gold and allow it to "leach" out of the pile and also into the ground. This process risks contaminating the surrounding area and is heavily regulated by many nations.

[12] Maung Chit Thu was the operations commander of the then-Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Battalion #999 prior to the DKBA transformation into the Tatmadaw Border Guard, which began in September 2010. His role has grown considerably since the transformation, and he is now second in command of BGF forces. Abuses committed by Maung Chit Thu have been cited in previous KHRG reports, including ordering the forcible relocation of villagers from eight villages in Lu Pleh Township in July 2011, while acting as a Border Guard commander, see, "Pa'an Situation Update: June to August 2011," KHRG, October 2011.

[13] As of July 10th 2013, all conversion estimates for the Kyat in this report are based on the official market rate of 978 kyat to the US $1.