Civilian and Military order documents: November 2009 to July 2013

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Civilian and Military order documents: November 2009 to July 2013

Published date:
Thursday, October 17, 2013

Field documentation received by KHRG since the beginning of 2013 indicates a decrease in forced labour demands by Burma/Myanmar civilian and military officials in some areas of the southeastern Myanmar. In other areas, forced labour demands continue unabated, with some following the predictable pattern of Tatmadaw reliance on nearby civilian populations. This report contains a total of 25 translated copies of order documents issued by military and civilian officials of Myanmar’s central government to village heads in southeastern Myanmar between November 2009 and July 2013, including 17 order documents issued since January 2012. The order documents collected here include demands for: attendance at meetings; the provision of bamboo or thatch for military camp maintenance; labour for infrastructure development; completion of the registration and distribution of land use permits; and for arbitrary tax collection. In almost all cases, villagers received no compensation for the goods or services demanded of them. Most demands articulated in the orders presented in this report involved some element of forced labour in their implementation and were typically backed by implicit threats of violence. To provide additional context for forced labour incidents documented by KHRG during 2013, original excerpts from 15 pieces of KHRG field information are also included (See Appendix 1: Forced labour during 2013). These documents describe forced labour demands for military camp maintenance or building; labour for infrastructure development; portering; service as messengers; and agricultural labour. These documents cumulatively serve as primary evidence of ongoing exploitative local governance in rural Myanmar. This report thus supports the continuing testimonies of villagers regarding regular demands for labour, money, food and other supplies to which their communities are subjected to by local civilian and military authorities. 

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Footnotes

[1] 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 Myanmar 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 Myanmar 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.

[2] 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 quota of Tatmadaw officers; see “DKBA officially becomes Border Guard Force” Democratic Voice of Burma, August 2010; see also “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” KHRG, June 2009. A September 2010 ceremony marked the official transformation of DKBA into Border Guard Forces; after this point, BGF battalions started operating as Tatmadaw. See, for example: “Border Guard Force formed at Atwinkwinkalay region, Myawaddy Township, Kayin State,” New Light of Myanmar, September 2010.

[3] See ILO Forced Labour Convention 1930, Art. 26.

[4] Commander Maung Chit Thu was the operations commander of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Battalion #999 prior to the DKBA transformation into the Tatmadaw Border Guard Force, which began in September 2010. His role has grown considerably since the transformation, and he is now second in command of Tatmadaw BGF forces.

[5] Commander Maung Chit Thu spoke these words at a Karen Armed Groups Meeting in Htoh Kaw Koh on May 28th 2013 in response to an accusation that “Maung Chit Thu’s group [the BGF] had become Burmese people (sic)”. It is likely that ‘one step toward it already’ is referring to the progress being made at the meeting, attended by representatives from the DKBA, BGF, KNU/KNLA and the KNU/KNLA Peace Council (PC). 

[6] For a description of patterns of forced labour in Myanmar, see “Background on forced labour and orders” below. For analysis of KHRG’s documentation describing forced labour in 2012, please see Civilian and Military order documents: August 2009 to August 2012, KHRG, October 2012.For descriptions of exploitative demands for food and the large-scale confiscation of land in Papun District, see “Papun Situation Update: Dweh Loh Township, January to March 2012,” KHRG, May 2012; and “Papun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, Received April 2012,” KHRG, May 2012. For details about forced labour on military agricultural projects in Pa’an District, see: “Forced labour and extortion in Pa’an District,” KHRG, June 2012. For details about the forced transportation of military supplies and functional sweeping for landmines by civilians during road construction in Toungoo District, see: “Ongoing forced labour and movement restrictions in Toungoo District,” KHRG, March 2012. For a description of rations transport in areas known to be heavily mined, see: “Abuses since the DKBA and KNLA ceasefires: Forced labour and arbitrary detention in Dooplaya,” KHRG May 2012. For a description of the forced production of building materials in Thaton District, see: “Forced labour in Bilin Township,” KHRG, April 2012.

[7] For a detailed description of forced labour ordered by Tatmadaw LID #44 soldiers and analysis of its end by September 2012, please see “Persistent forced labour demands stop in six villages in Bilin Township as of September,” KHRG, July 2013.

[8] Unpublished photo notes written by a KHRG community member explain how Tatmadaw LIB #44 soldiers in Than Daung Township, Toungoo District were seen portering their own rations instead of relying on the local community in December 2012. 

[9] See Order documents issued in 2013 below; see also Appendix 1: Forced labour in 2013 below.

[10] Demands for forced labour by IB #96 are described in an unpublished Situation Update written by a community member from Hpapun District who has been trained by KHRG. The report was received in February 2013 (See Appendix 1: Source document #9).

[11] For examples of KHRG documentation describing demands for forced labour and other abuse by BGF #1013 and #1014, see “Papun Situation Update: Forced labour in Bu Tho Township, January to February 2013,” KHRG, April 2013 (See Appendix 1: Source document #4); see also “BGF #1014 Warrant Officer injures villagers and steals property in Hpapun District, January and May 2013,” KHRG, October 2013; see also “Violent abuse and forced labour in Bu Tho Township, November and December 2012,” KHRG, July 2013; see also “Papun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, November 2011 to July 2012,” KHRG, April 2013.

[12] For KHRG documentation of Tatmadaw LIBs #547, #548 and #549 demanding forced labour in May 2013, see Appendix 1: Source document #15; for documentation from 2011 and 2012, see “Pa'an Situation Update: T'Nay Hsah Township, September 2011 to April 2012,” KHRG, July 2012.

[13] Between February and April 2013, 58 villagers and their carts were used to transport rations for the Tatmadaw LIB #590 and IB #30; this incident is described in an unpublished Situation Update written by a community member from Nyaunglebin District who has been trained by KHRG. The report was submitted to KHRG in May 2013 (See Appendix 1: Source document #10). Forced labour ordered by Tatmadaw LIB #349 is described in an unpublished short update submitted by the same community member in May 2013 (See Appendix 1: Source document #11), as well as in a phone call with KHRG in July 2013.

[14] This information was received in April 2013 from a community member trained by KHRG in Lay Kay area, Bilin Township, Thaton District.

[15] This information was submitted to KHRG in November 2012 as a supplementary order document from a community member who has been trained by KHRG in Hpa-an District; for the associated order letter, see Order #4 in this report.

[16] This information was submitted to KHRG in January 2013 in photo notes written by a community member trained by KHRG in Tantabin Township, Toungoo District.

[17] See “Statement on initial agreement between KNU and Burmese government,” Karen Nation Union Website, January 13th 2012.

[18] See “Discussions in the Governing Body” in Observation (CEACR) - adopted 2012, published 102nd ILC session, 2013.

[19] For the full text of the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding between the ILO and the RUM, see ILO Governing Body “Developments concerning the question of the observance by the Government of Myanmar of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)” Geneva, 313th Session, GB.313/INS/6(Add.), March 2012, Appendix 2.

[20] Disciplinary measures were taken against 166 military personnel and action taken under section 374 of the Penal Code against 170 other government officials and five military personnel; see Observation (CEACR) - adopted 2012, published 102nd ILC session, 2013.

[21] For more information on this third round of ceasefire negotiations, see “KNU and government verbally agree on ceasefire code of conduct,” Karen News, September 4th 2012.

[22] See Article 1 ‘General Definitions’ of the Code of Conduct for the Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in performing under the concrete ceasefire agreement entered into between the Government of Myanmar and the Karen National Union (KNU), May 2012 draft, English translation available on record at KHRG.

[23]  A draft of the Ceasefire Code of conduct is available on file at KHRG offices.

[24] For the full text of the Supplementary Understanding between the Government of the Union of Myanmar and the International Labour Office (2007), see: http://www.ilo.org/yangon/info/WCMS_106131/lang--en/index.htm

[25] For the full text of the Joint Strategy between the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the ILO on a comprehensive, joint, benchmarked strategy on the elimination of all forms of forced labour in Myanmar by 2015, see: http://www.ilo.org/gb/GBSessions/GB313/ins/WCMS_175839/lang--en/index.htm

[26] See “ILO lifts remaining restrictions in Myanmar,” 102nd International Labour Conference, Press Release, June 18th 2013.

[27] KHRG research areas include some of all or parts of government-delineated Kayin and Mon states and Bago and Tanintharyi regions. The Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor has noted that Kayin state and Bago region are suspected to contain the heaviest landmine contamination in Myanmar and collectively have the highest number of recorded victims. The Monitor also identified suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) in every township in government-delineated Kayin state; in Thanbyuzayat, Thaton, and Ye townships in Mon state; in Kyaukkyi, Shwekyin, and Tantabin townships in Bago region; and in Bokpyin, Dawei, Tanintharyi, Thayetchaung and Yebyu townships of Tanintharyi region; see Country profile: Myanmar Burma, ICBL Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. Similarly, Dan Church Aid (DCA) which currently operates mine-risk education (MRE) programs and a prosthetic clinic in eastern Myanmar, has noted that, while verifiable data is difficult to gather due to infrequency of access, Myanmar experiences some of the highest mine accident rates in the world. DCA also notes that no de-mining programs are currently being pursued as new mines continue to be deployed by both government and NSAGs; see DCA Mine Action: Burma/Myanmar.

[28] In April 2012, the ILO affirmed the conclusion that forced labour attends increased landmine risks in a meeting in Yangon with KHRG. For further explanation, see the recent KHRG thematic report Uncertain Ground: Landmines in eastern Burma, KHRG, May 2012, pp. 55 – 59.

[29] “Report of Commission of Inquiry reveals widespread and systematic forced labour in Myanmar (Burma),” International Labour Organisation (ILO), August 20th 1998, ILO/98/32.

[30] For the full text of the MOU signed by inter alia the Deputy Minister of Defence Aung Thaw, see ILO Governing Body 313th Session, Geneva, 15– 30 March 2012GB.313/INS/6 (Add.).

[31] See, Andrew Selth, Burma's Armed Forces: Power Without Glory, Norwalk: Eastbridge, 2002 p. 136. See also, Mary Callahan, "Of kyay-zu and kyet-zu: the military in 2006," pp. 36-53 in Monique Skidmore and Trevor Wilson (eds.), Myanmar: The State, Community and the Environment, Canberra: Asia Pacific Press, 2007 p. 46.

[32] See, Andrew Selth, Burma's Armed Forces: Power Without Glory, Norwalk: Eastbridge, 2002 p. 136. See also, Mary Callahan, "Of kyay-zu and kyet-zu: the military in 2006," pp. 36-53 in Monique Skidmore and Trevor Wilson (eds.), Myanmar: The State, Community and the Environment, Canberra: Asia Pacific Press, 2007 p. 46.

[33] For more on the relationship between abuses such as forced labour and food insecurity, see Food crisis: The cumulative impact of abuse in rural Burma, KHRG, April 2009.  For more on the relationship between abuses such as forced labour and displacement, see Abuse, Poverty and Migration: Investigating migrants' motivations to leave home in Burma, KHRG, June 2009.  See also, “Central Papun District: Village-level decision-making and strategic displacement,” KHRG, August 2010.

[34] Noted in Richard Horsey, Ending Forced Labour in Myanmar: Engaging a pariah regime. New York: Routledge, 2011, pp.15 fn.39.

[35] For additional evidence of an ongoing reliance on civilian populations by military troops, see Section 1, “Introduction and executive summary” above in this report.

[36] These three letters include orders from religious leader U Thuzana to attend meetings and perform “voluntary labour” on a bridge. In two other reports, a villager and a KHRG community member explain that the labour requested by the monk amounts to forced labour; see Source documents #12 and #13 below.