Hpa-an Interview: Saw N---, June 2012


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Hpa-an Interview: Saw N---, June 2012

Published date:
Saturday, October 19, 2013

This report contains the full transcript of an interview conducted during June 2012 in T’Nay Hsah Township, Hpa-an District by a community member trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. The community member interviewed Saw N---, a 60-year-old T--- villager, who described information pertaining to land confiscation and forced labour. According to information provided by Saw N---, Tatmadaw LIBs #547, #548 and #549 confiscated land from T---, M---, W---, and H--- villages. Saw N--- describes how, in the past, villagers working these farms were taxed by the Tatmadaw in order to continue farming them. Now however, they have been pressured to sign the land away completely and have needed to move to a nearby monastery. Saw N--- also describes how Battalion #548, in particular, is forcing villagers with tractors to work the land without pay. Information is also provided on past Tatmadaw abuses toward villagers having to do with killings, forced portering, and extortion. This interview and other testimony on land confiscation was originally published in the Appendix of Losing Ground: Land conflicts and collective action in eastern Myanmar


[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 2013. In the meantime, KHRG’s most recently-published field information from Hpa-an District can be found in the report, “Hpa-an Photo Set: BGF production and sale of yaba in T'Nay Hsah and Ta Kreh townships,” KHRG, July 2013.

[3] A basket is a unit of volume used to measure paddy, milled rice and seeds. One basket is equivalent to 20.9 kg. or 46.08 lb. of paddy, and 32 kg. or 70.4 lb. of milled rice. A basket is twice the volume of a big tin.

[4] 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.

[5] The KNU/KNLA Peace Council (also called the Karen Peace Council or KPC), is an armed group based in Htoh Gkaw Ko, Hpa-an District, which split from the Karen National Union (KNU) in 2007 and subsequently refused to comply with orders from the then-SPDC government to transform its forces into the Tatmadaw Border Guard; see: “KNU/KNLA Peace Council,” Mizzima News, June 7th 2010 and “KPC to be outlawed if it rejects BGF,” Burma News International, August 30th 2010.

[6] The villager is using the “three stone stove” metaphor to explain that the Battalion camps are set up in a triangular formation.

[7] The “low part” the interviewee is referring to here are lowland areas where larger towns and cities exist.

[8] Loh ah pay is a Burmese term now commonly used in reference to forced labour, although traditionally referring to voluntary service for temples or the local community, not military or state projects.

[9] As of August 16th 2012, all conversion estimates for the Kyat in this report are based on the official market rate of 872 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.