Situation Update | Thandaunggyi and Htantabin Township, Toungoo District (November 2014)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in November 2014. It was written by a community member in Toungoo District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor local human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security. This report was received along with other information from Toungoo District, including four incident reports, 25 interviews, 311 photographs and two video clips.
Types of land confiscation after the ceasefire
[Regarding] the land that the [Burma/Myanmar] government confiscated in the past, they have [now] given it to companies. They [Burma/Myanmar government] have more of a project implementation [business] approach. Former [Tatmadaw] military officers allocate the land for long-term plantation use, for building more army buildings and for building departmental offices. Moreover, the lands that have not been registered were labelled as forest land and were confiscated by the [Burma/Myanmar] government for long-term plantation use. There is also land confiscation for the purpose of road construction for regional development, extending the road area and for building hotels. In addition, there is land confiscation for the mining of natural resources. When they extended the land area for the [Tatmadaw] military camp buildings it also included land for agricultural [use by the military].
Consequences from land confiscation
The villagers whose lands have been confiscated, their land area [property] is [now] smaller. Some [villagers] have no land, [others] have to go away from their home area for work. They [Burma/Myanmar government and corporations] do not pay compensation for the confiscated land and they [villagers] have no land to stay on. They have no replacement land, become unemployed, work for the rich people hand to mouth, migrate, and are subject to human trafficking. It generates unwanted social problems.
The villagers’ response
After their land was confiscated, they [villagers] started protecting their land and now [since the ceasefire] the [Burma/Myanmar] government announced that there is a transparent [process] to get back their land. After [villagers] asked for information from the Thandaunggyi Township land office, NGOs [non-governmental organisations], human rights workers, human rights educators, and land law educators came in. Some people asked for advice from the [Kayin] state parliament, parliament ministers and land lawyers. The KNU [Karen National Union] carried out a land survey on the land that had not been surveyed and on the land that they [KNU] wanted to survey. [Villagers] do not know how the Myanmar government will manage the land.
Comments on land confiscation
The main issue is that the Myanmar government extends the [Tatmadaw’s territory and bases]. They should measure and take only the area that they need and pay compensation. They should recognize the local people, respect the civilians and their traditional [practices] and value the local people’s land. It is very important to prioritise the civilians’ livelihoods. [The villagers] want them to think deeply for the future of the Myanmar nation, not only in the ethnic areas, but throughout Myanmar.
Armed group activity in Brigade 2, Toungoo District
In Toungoo District, the government soldiers from [Tatmadaw] Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #590 punched and committed violent abuse against local resident Saw A--- in 2014 and [now] he [Saw A---] has to take medical treatment [due to the attack]. Also, the local militia [Thaundaung Peace Group] and their officer, Kyaw Win, punched and committed abuse against a man from C--- village in Leik Tho town. [Officer] Kyaw Win’s subordinates pointed their guns and surrounded him. Moreover, the local militia [Thaundaung Peace Group] also smuggles drugs in their controlled area.
The [Thaundaung] Peace [Group] also extracts mineral and underground resources in the special area [area under their control] and the local people who live in the area are negatively affected [have their community disrupted]. The [Thaundaung] Peace Group does logging for their business. Because of this the forest is becoming smaller. If the local people [go to the forest] to cut down trees for building their houses, the [Thaundaung] Peace Group fines them. Because of these events, the local residents are harmed in many ways. Moreover, Aye Chan Yay [Peace Group] and the local militia [Thaundaung Peace Group] often argue over the land and the local residents worry that the two armed groups will fight over the dispute.
In the past [before the ceasefire] the Myanmar military [Tatmadaw] built their camps with bamboo. After 2012, they extended and repaired their camps on the front line. The [Tatmadaw] military is also sending rations [to their camps] and are active just like in the past.
In Toungoo District, Thandaunggyi Township, Than Mo Taung village tract, D--- village, 300 acres of land were confiscated by the local militia [Thaundaung Peace Group]. They not only [took] the land and cleared the land, but also conducted agriculture. Parliament representatives and rich people from Toungoo town, including U Htun Htun [a wealthy individual], confiscated the land and [now] conduct agriculture [on it]. Because of these events, the locals lost their lands and work as day labourers for the rich people who confiscated the land.
In Thandaunggyi town, Toungoo District the [Tatmadaw] Bu Yin Naung military training centre based in the town increased its [number of] trainees more than [it had] in the past. On the civilian plantations in the military confiscated lands, they [military] have been doing heavy weapons target practice and the civilians are put in many dangerous situations when collecting cardamom in the plantation. LIB #124 confiscated the civilians’ lands in 2014 and placed a sign board that said Tat Piang Myay, meaning ‘military land’. They also fenced [off] the land. The civilians are trying to get back their lands which [have been] passed down from their grandparents.
In 2014, the villagers said that there was fighting between the Burma military [Tatmadaw] and the KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army] in Toungoo District, Htantabin Township, between Khoo Moo Doh [village] and Loh Ka Lah Doh [village]. The reason the fighting happened was because unknown troops under [Burma/Myanmar] government Military Operation Command [MOC] #20 control went over the boundary that they had agreed on and broke the rules that both sides agreed to. The local people said that there was fighting with the KNLA and that there was death on the government’s side.