During late 2013 and early 2014, a number of human rights abuses were reported to the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) by local villagers in Hpapun District. The subjection of villagers to forced labour and violent abuse by Saw Tha Beh, a 2nd Lieutenant of Border Guard Force (BGF) Battalion #1014, which is based in Weh Gyi army camp and led by battalion commander Bo Maung Chit, was raised more than once.
Second Lieutenant Saw Tha Beh is reported to be conducting logging operations in the forest near M--- village. On January 15th 2014, he ordered villagers in M--- to transport wooden planks from the forest to the vehicle road using their trucks or bullock carts without providing any wages. Those who didn’t have cars or bullock carts had to physically carry the planks to the road.
Some villagers were unable to provide the labour demanded because they were busy conducting their own livelihood activities. Second Lieutenant Saw Tha Beh responded by confiscating wood from villagers who refused to work for him, and subjected them to violent abuse, punching and hitting them. Naw S---, 50, was among the villagers subjected to forced labour. She told KHRG that whenever 2nd Lieutenant Saw Tha Beh calls a meeting to demand labour, he always carries two cane sticks, and if the villagers say that they are not able to provide labour, he would hit them with the cane sticks.
In addition, Saw Tha Beh asked to buy wooden planks from the villagers at far below the market price. The villagers didn’t want to sell the planks for that price, but they worried that Saw Tha Beh would harm them if they did not, so they were forced to. Sometimes, Saw Tha Beh didn’t even pay for the planks and just confiscated them. Fifty one year-old U M---, said that “[even though] Saw Tha Beh had confiscated my wood, he still hit me twice with his cane stick and twice with a piece of split bamboo. He also punched me twice.” He went on to explain that Saw Tha Beh had also ordered villagers to serve as messengers and perform sentry duty.
To avoid being ordered to do forced labour or suffering violent abuse, most of the villagers fled to other places such as D--- village and P--- village. Some people who fled have now dared to come back to the village, but most of them haven’t returned yet. The villagers also reported that 2nd lieutenant Saw Tha Beh and his soldiers travel around the district and engage in logging whenever and wherever they want.