In early 2012, after the KNU and Burma government signed a ceasefire agreement, villagers from seven villages in Bu Tho Township, Hpapun District reported to a KHRG community member that they were able to pursue their livelihoods more safely. Villagers expressed support for the ceasefire and peace talks.
According to the villagers, since the ceasefire, human rights violations such as forced labour and arbitrary demands and taxation carried out by Tatmadaw and Border Guard Force (BGF) soldiers have stopped or decreased. As one villager said, “In the beginning of 2012, the movements of the Tatmadaw and BGF have reduced for a little bit because the KNU and KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army] operate from Nyah Day Lo to La Htee Th’daw Hta. So, there is no more taxation and forced labour orders by the BGF. We suffered these kinds of abuse in the past a lot. We hope that the KNU and KNLA improve their plans [by continuing in peace talks and participating in the ceasefire].” Villagers also mentioned that since the ceasefire went into effect, Tatmadaw and BGF soldiers have ceased operations in and around their villages. However, villagers noted that about 100 acres of land confiscated from different villages by Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalions (LIBs) #434 and #340 in previous years has not yet been returned.
Villagers in Bu Tho Township also said they rely on KNU members and KNLA soldiers for support, including information about security developments. Villagers feel that they can travel and work freely because the territory is under KNU control. As such, they feel notably safer. However, by relying on the KNU for information, some villagers were accused of affiliation with the KNU by the BGF, resulting in fines to some.
Villagers are also worried about the situation’s stability because of the area BGF’s close cooperation with the Burma government, and they are afraid that the BGF and Tatmadaw will resume operations in their village again one day. Villagers expressed that if the ceasefire fails, their lives will be more difficult because they live among these armed groups.