Hpapun Interview: Daw A---, February 2013

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Hpapun Interview: Daw A---, February 2013

Published date:
Monday, May 18, 2015

This Interview with Daw A--- describes events occurring in Bu Tho Township, Hpapun District, during the period between January and February 2013, including a landmine explosion which wounded a villager’s buffalo, arbitrary demands, explicit threats, and injuries to two villagers caused by a grenade.

  • A Border Guard Force (BGF) Battalion #1014 soldier threatened a family with an M79 grenade launcher, demanding they provide a gallon of petrol for him. However, the family did not have a full gallon, the equivalent of eight bottles, and could provide only three bottles. The BGF soldier declined and pointed the M79 at the woman and her baby angrily and demanded they give him one gallon of petrol. As he placed down his M79, a grenade discharged accidently and hit the woman and her baby.  
  • The victim reported the incident to the military court, and the BGF officer stated the BGF would compensate the victims with 250,000 kyat (US $253.55) for the injury, although so far the victim has only received 100,000 kyat (US $101.42). The BGF officer apologised to the villagers and requested the victim not to report the incident to any other organisation.  
  • A villager’s buffalo stepped on a landmine in a sugarcane plantation. The BGF killed the buffalo in the morning the following day after meeting with the owner. There are also other landmines in the plantation, which were reportedly planted by the BGF. The villagers requested that the BGF remove them, but they dare not attempt this, as grass hides the location of many of the landmines.
  • Daw A--- also describes issues arising from a dam project. The project had a video screening in the area in B--- village. Those from the project also provided a torch light to each house. According to the interviewee, she thought there is no benefit for the local people in the area.

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 conducting interviews, community members are trained to use loose question guidelines, but also to encourage interviewees to speak freely about recent events, raise issues that they consider to be important and share their opinions or perspectives on abuse and other local dynamics.

[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/Myanmar 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 Force” Democratic Voice of Burma, August 2010, and, “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” KHRG, June 2009.

[4] By the time of publication KHRG was unable to determine where these Burmese deserters had deserted from and why.

[5] The interviewee was still answering the previous question, giving further information on whether the deserters spoke Karen, while the researcher had moved on to another question.

[6] A viss is a unit of weight equivalent to 1.6 kg. or 3.52 lb.

[7] All conversion estimates for the Kyat in this report are based on the October 2nd 2014 official market rate of 986 kyat to the US $1.

[8] Saw Tha Beh is a 2nd Lieutenant in Border Guard Force (BGF) Battalion #1014 in Hpapun District. KHRG has received multiple reports of Saw Tha Beh committing human rights abuses in Hpapun District, including forced labour, arbitrary taxation and violent abuse. For more information see: “Violent abuse and forced labour in Hpapun District, November 2013 – January 2014,” KHRG, September 2014; “Hpapun Incident Report: Forced labour and violent abuse in Bu Tho Township, January 2014,” KHRG, August 2014; “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, November 2013 to February 2014,” KHRG, August 2014; and “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, August to November 2013,” KHRG, December 2013.

[9] Here and throughout the interview, the interviewee refers to her husband as ‘your brother’; this does not mean biological brother, but rather is a term of endearment used in S’gaw Karen.

[10] When recounting the words spoken by the BGF soldier, the interviewee appears to imply that the soldier was inebriated, by changing her intonation and slurring her words. The interviewee did not state this explicitly.

[11] The M79 grenade launcher is a single-shot, shoulder fired, break-action grenade launcher, which can fire rounds of various types. It is commonly used by infantry throughout the world.

[12] While the interviewee uses the S’gaw Karen term for ‘bullet’ an M79 is a grenade launcher, and can fire various types of grenade rounds, such as explosive, illumination, smoke, etc. It is unclear what type of round was fired from the weapon in this incident.

[13] Klo is a Karen word for gun.

[14] 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/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 Burma/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.

[15] The BGF Commander told him not to report the incident. He then goes on to explain that he believes the BGF should investigate the incident and report it themselves to other organisations – they should take responsibility for what they did.

[16] A ‘gon’ refers to a camp which is situated on a gradient (hill) – in this instance the camp belongs to the BGF however the term ‘gon’ does not refer solely to BGF camps, it can refer to any type of camp located on a hill.

[17] The interviewee is answering the previous set of questions, pertaining to the individuals she perceived as being ‘the media’. She did not answer this question regarding the other ethnicities.

[18] Dog fruit, also known as jengkol, is a bean containing sulphur and a mildly toxic amino acid. It is native to Southeast Asia and is commonly eaten with rice and fish paste.

[19] In this area of Bu Tho Township, when villagers use the term ‘lower part’, they are referring to the southern portion of the township, at the confluence of the Salween and Yuzalin rivers, which is more developed, and has a higher concentration of towns and villages. Conversely, ‘upper part’ refers to more remote areas further up river, which are sparsely populated.

[20] T’la aw trees are teak-like trees with large leaves, which are traditionally collected by villagers and used to make thatched shingles for the roofs of houses.

[21] Those in eighth standard are aged 13-14 years. This is therefore the equivalent of US grade 8/9.

[22] The researcher is asking if the interviewee thinks it is fair that the BGF receive a salary from the government and the KNU do not. The interviewee replies that the KNU do not need or expect a salary from the government. If there is a problem with KNU soldiers, the leader of the KNU can be approached easily.