Situation Update | Nabu Township, Hpa-an District (May 2012)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in May 2013. It was written by a community member in Hpa-an District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security.
On March 21st 2012, I went to the T’Nay Hsah [Nabu] Township area, the place where I have responsibilities and I [also] went to places I had not been before. There are many armed actors, such as the BGF [Border Guard Force], the KNLA/KNU-PC [Karen National Liberation Army/Karen National Union - Peace Council] and the DKBA [Democratic Karen Benevolent Army], which are [active] in the places where I have been.
I have not seen any development activities in the villages, village tracts or in the township. I have seen some [new] roads and when I asked the villagers [about them], they told me that they had to put their energy, money and time [into building the roads]. They [the villagers] did it by themselves and the armed groups did not do it for them. Likewise, the [Burma] government did not build the schools. The villagers dedicated their time, money and energy and tried to build schools by themselves. Also, the Government did not build a clinic for the villages, but the villagers established one by themselves. I have seen some big houses in the village, but the Government did not build them for them [the villagers]. I have seen that the villagers are doing business, such as making charcoal; distilling alcohol [to sell]; cutting wood with machines; and selling two-digit [lottery tickets].
The thing that has affected the villagers the most are the landmines beside the villages, forced recruitment, forced labour and taxation. The villagers have no rights. I told them that every human being has rights and showed them posters [the human rights education poster created by KHRG] that I brought with me. They asked me to give them posters and hung them on the wall of their houses and beside the roads. The [number of] posters that I brought with me were not enough for the whole village tract. I found that they desperately want rely on their human rights. They bravely hang the posters on the walls of their houses so people can understand their rights. These posters help the people, because they will understand the words [their human rights] when they look at the pictures. One of the female villagers told me that people [the armed actors] treated [abused] them like [similar to what] they saw in the pictures in the posters.
The villagers said that they have to be afraid of the DKBA, the KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army] and the Tatmadaw. When the Burma government transformed the DKBA into the BGF, both the DKBA and BGF [started to] fight each other again and they [the villagers] were very sad and weary. The people who were injured and died in the battle are people from their villages, who were hired to be the soldiers of the BGF for one year and six months. [One villager from Nabu Township reported to a KHRG community member that] on March 29th 2012, BGF soldiers entered their village and tried to find deserters. They called people who had already served in the military for one year and six months [ordered them to report to them for further military service], and went to the deserters’ homes [to search for them]. They ordered the village heads to arrest the deserters for them. When the village head went to the deserters and told them that the BGF had ordered them to go back to the military camp, one deserter replied that he did not want to be a soldier of the BGF anymore, that he had already served the military for one year and six months and that he was very happy to be back home. According to the village head, the deserter said: “You [the village head] are a spy of the BGF because you told me to go back to the military camp. Give me 5,000,000 kyat (US $5,123) if you want me to serve in the military again. At first you told me that I had to serve one year and six months, and I already did it. You must [now] pay [me] the amount of money I ask if you want me to be a soldier again.”
I met the village head and asked him for information. He told me that the problems he is facing are too difficult and that it is not easy to be the village head. “The BGF ordered me to find the deserters and told me to hire new people [soldiers] if I could not find the deserters. Or [instead] we had to pay them [the BGF] money and they would hire the soldiers if we could not hire new soldiers by ourselves.” And I [the village head] replied, “When you were DKBA, we hired soldiers for you for seven years, for three years or for one year and six months, as much as we could. We also tried to help you as much as we could when you became the BGF. You [BGF] said that [you would hire the soldiers for] seven years and [then] you did not discharge them after seven years of serving in the military. You said that [you would hire the soldiers for] three years and you did not discharge them after they had served for three years in the military. And you said that you would discharge the villagers after serving one year and six months, but you did not discharge the villagers after one year and six months. So that causes problems. Actually, no one wants to be a soldier and they just fulfil their duty. Some of them died in battle, some of them lost their legs or hands and it causes so many hardships for their parents, and you [BGF] do not take care of them and you don’t help them. You ask for money from villagers when the soldiers run away from the camp and you ask money in lieu of portering. In the beginning, we hired the soldiers for you, but now that you have transformed to a Border Guard Force, and the Burma army feeds you and gives you salary. So, it is wrong to come back and do such a thing to the villagers.”
After telling me this story, the village head told me that they [the villagers] did not dare to speak to the BGF soldiers like that in the past. However, they have dared to talk to them like that since the KNU [Karen National Union] agreed the ceasefire with the Burma army, and because they [BGF soldiers] come to the villages very often [so villagers are less afraid of them]. The village head also told me not to leave, and asked me to live with them and said that they [the villagers] feel more supported when I am with them. The village head also said, “You have to make suggestions to the villagers on how to respond to their concerns.” I replied to him that I could not help them by myself, but [that I could if the villagers] note down the hardships that they encounter with accurate dates, places, the names of the victims and the perpetrators. Maybe I could help them in some way if I know these things. If other people write about our history and our suffering, and if we do not write it by ourselves, it may be [recorded] wrongly. It [our history] cannot be [recorded] wrongly if we write it by ourselves.