Situation Update | Thandaunggyi and Htantabin townships, Toungoo District (November 2014 to February 2015)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in March 2015. 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 275 photographs and eight video clips.
In this situation update from Toungoo District, [the information] starts from November 1st 2014 to February 22nd 2015. The situations that I would like to mention are: the military situation, the situation of the civilians, healthcare, education, the problem of the land and landmines.
The situation of the Tatmadaw
In Toungoo District, the Tatmadaw are as active as they were in the past. They send their rations [to the camps] once every three months. Their soldiers are asked to take responsibility for road side security when sending their rations. When they came to buy things in the village, some of them brought their guns [with them]. The Tatmadaw camp which was active and based in Toungoo District in 2014 was Military Operations Command (MOC) #20. There were ten battalions under the control of MOC #20. On February 12th 2015, MOC #5 replaced MOC #20. They came with a total of around 80 military trucks. The battalions which are under the control of MOC #5 are Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #371, LIB #372, LIB #373, LIB #374, LIB #375, LIB #376, LIB #377, LIB #378 and LIB #379. In Thandaunggyi Town, Bu Yin Naung camp #124 is based there permanently. Southern Command Battalion #603 is based in Leik Tho Town and there is a military training school based in Bu Yin Naung camp.
The situation of the civilians
In Toungoo District, since the ceasefire between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Burmese government, it is easier for the civilians to travel. They also have more opportunities to work. They can work for their livelihoods peacefully since they do not face any disturbances. The civilians therefore do not want the fighting to happen [again]. The villagers want the ceasefire to be permanent. The civilians want peace. Therefore, they want the Tatmadaw camps which are based in [rural] Toungoo District to go back to the towns in Toungoo District. Since the military camps are based near the villages in Toungoo District, the villagers were afraid of them. However, some of the villagers said, “We cannot trust the Tatmadaw because they always bring their guns when they travel.” In Toungoo District, the civilians are now facing land problems. Since the ceasefire, there are more businessmen, rich men and companies entering into the area; there are also more problems occurring.
In Toungoo District, in terms of healthcare, the diseases around are malaria, diarrhoea, and other diseases. In some areas, if the civilians suffer with disease, they treat them with herbal medicines. For the diseases that they cannot treat with herbal medicines, they treat with modern medicines. As the civilians in Toungoo District live in the forest, they [usually] go to the KNU clinic to treat their diseases. It sometimes causes problems for the KNU clinic workers since they do not have enough medicine in their clinic. The civilians do not go to the [Burma/Myanmar] government clinic as it costs a lot of money.
The problem of the land
There is the problem of land [confiscation] in Toungoo District. The land problems will occur in C--- village, Wet Kaw Khaw Sein village tract, Toungoo District. U Khin Maung [who] leads Aye Roya Kay Tu company and CB Bank company are going to construct an industrial area and they are going to confiscate the villagers’ land which they [the villagers] are working on for their livelihoods. For this reason, it causes problems for the civilians. The land that the companies have marked for setting up the industrial area is a total of 4,100 acres in one area and 4,100 acres in another area.
On January 8th 2015, villagers from many villages came and demonstrated in Pan Chan Field, along the Yangon to Mandalay road in Toungoo Town because they do not want their lands to be confiscated. Some of the lands already have the land grant. In terms of the land issue, the villagers submitted a letter to Naypyidaw. However, they have not received any reply yet. It therefore causes worry for the villagers. In another area, Kaung Myanmar Aung [Group of] Companies (KMA) came and set up a teak plantation in A--- village, Seik Pu Taw village tract, Htantabin Township, Toungoo District. A villager named Saw B--- went and complained to them [the company] and they [KMA] sued him and six [of his] friends. They sued Saw B--- and until now [his case is ongoing]. When he goes for an appointment [for his case], it causes problems for him as he has appointments often and he has his own family. He has [to take time] to take care of them [as well as fitting in his appointments]. Since he has to go to court once a week, it causes problems for his family. Kaung Myanmar [Group of] Companies started confiscating the villagers' land on December 14th 2013.
In Toungoo District, there is nothing special in regards to education. After the ceasefire the [Burma/Myanmar] government allowed [students from kindergarten] to fourth standard to be taught for free. In some areas, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) came and repaired schools so they would be better. [The villagers] receive no special support from the Burma government. The government should change the education [system] so it is better. It needs to be changed a lot because education is one of the most important things for the people. In regards to education, the KNU leaders in Toungoo District are also going to set up a high school. It will be opened in 2015. The reason why the leaders [will] open this school is for the Karen children to know the history of the Karen people and to be able to know [read and write] the Karen language. In Toungoo District, there are two middle schools: one is in Htantabin Township and the other is in Thandaunggyi Township. They are led by the KNU.
In terms of landmines, the landmines have not been removed yet in Toungoo District. However, not only does the KNU [no longer plant landmines] but neither does the government. There are only the old landmines. It causes worry for the villagers since there are landmines planted on their lands so they dare not to work on this land. The place where the landmines are planted the most is in Buh Hsah Hkee area. The KNU recently said that they cannot remove the land mines yet because the situation is not yet stable [enough].
The incidents which I mentioned above happened in Toungoo District. These incidents happened after the ceasefire between the KNU and the [Burma/Myanmar] government and they happened because the companies and the rich people are entering into the area more [frequently]. Before the ceasefire, the civilians mainly suffered from forced labour.
In addition, the civilians in Burma are encountering land problems so demonstrations happened in some places since they depend on their land for their livelihoods. The civilians want the ceasefire with the KNU and Burma government to last forever. The civilians have not received any benefits on the topics mentioned above since and as they are not given compensation they do not completely believe the current ceasefire.