Dooplaya Situation Update: Kyonedoe Township, September to December 2013

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Dooplaya Situation Update: Kyonedoe Township, September to December 2013

Published date:
Friday, September 19, 2014

This Situation Update describes events occurring in Kyonedoe Township, Dooplaya District during the period between September and December 2013. It details concerns expressed by villagers regarding the loss of farmland and forest due to infrastructure development, logging and large-scale rubber cultivation, environmental pollution from industrial projects, restrictions on freedom of movement, forced labour, obstacles to education, serious healthcare problems and a general absence of the rule of law. Whilst armed conflict has decreased since the signing of the preliminary ceasefire agreement between the Burma/Myanmar government and the Karen National Union in January 2012, armed actors continued to operate in Kyonedoe Township, enforcing travel restrictions, demanding forced labour and collecting taxes, as well as engaging in the sale of forest land for cultivation and the drug trade.

  • Villagers reported that people who rely on hill field farming for their livelihoods face a general shortage of available land to cultivate, after land owners and local armed actors organised the sale of large amounts of land to rubber cultivators from other areas.
  • Similarly, large amounts of forest has been lost after local armed actors sold it to cultivators who cleared it to establish rubber plantations, leading to a shortage of natural materials used by villagers in the construction of houses, such as bamboo poles.
  • Villagers in KyainseikgyiTownship reported environmental pollution and associated health problems as a result of mining projects and the operation of a kiln in the area.
  • Villagers in Kawkareik Township reported serious health problems after taking medicine for elephantiasis distributed by the Burma/Myanmar government, including one case of miscarriage.
  • Members of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and Karen Peace Force (KPF) operated checkpoints and collected taxes from travellers.

Footnotes

[1] KHRG trains community members in eastern Burma/Myanmar 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/Myanmar, 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. For additional reports categorized by Type, Issue, Location and Year, please see the Related Readings component following each report on KHRG’s Website.

[3] Border Guard Force (BGF) 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 formalised ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government and agreed to transform into battalions within the Tatmadaw. BGF battalions are assigned four digit battalion numbers, whereas regular Tatmadaw infantry battalions are assigned two digit battalion numbers and light infantry battalions are identified by two or three-digit battalion numbers.  For more information, see “DKBA officially becomes Border Guard ForceDemocratic Voice of Burma, August 2010, and, “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” KHRG, June 2009.

[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 Karen Peace Force was formed in February 1997 after splitting from the KNU/KNLA and surrendering to and signing a ceasefire with the Burmese military government. The KPF controls some administrative areas in Three Pagodas Pass and operates a number of road and river checkpoints in the area of Three Pagodas Pass. Following repeated rejections of Burmese government proposals to reform KPF into the Tatmadaw Border Guard, substantial elements have since reformed in the Tatmadaw Border Guard in 2010 while others remain independent.

[6] All conversion estimates for the Kyat in this report are based on the 28 July 2014 official market rate of 974 kyat to the US $1.

[7] 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: “KPC to be outlawed if it rejects BGF,” Burma News International, August 30th 2010.

[8] The mathematical logic is not coherent, but the poem expresses a humorous frustration that there are such a large number of checkpoints in the area.  

[9] 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.

[10] It is unclear what this acronym refers to.

[11] ‘Ten households leader’ is a common term used to refer to villagers who are chosen by their communities to help manage the civil affairs of 10 or so households in a village. They work closely with the village head.

[12] However, some villagers claim that they were not informed about the possible side effects of taking the medicine before it was distributed.

[13] The Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO) was formed in 1947 by the Karen National Union and is the precursor to the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). Today the KNDO refers to a militia force of local volunteers trained and equipped by the KNLA and incorporated into its battalion and command structure; its members wear uniforms and typically commit to two-year terms of service.

[14]Ar Wer’ is a term used to describe special days, hence the expression ‘Ar Wer day.’ Ar Wer day events typically involve celebrations to mark a special occasion such as the building of a new pagoda. Sometimes, people also engage in illicit activities such as gambling and drug use on Ar Wer days.