Human rights violations by Second Lieutenant Tha Beh of BGF Battalion #1014 in Hpapun District, between 2012 and 2015
Border Guard Force (BGF) Second Lieutenant Tha Beh is serving in Battalion #1014 under the command of Maung Chit. He is originally from K--- village, but is active around A---, B---, and C--- villages in Pa Zwun Myaung village tract, Bu Tho Township. According to reports received from KHRG researchers, his primary activities in the area include logging and arbitrary taxation, which negatively impact villagers. He has also been implicated as the perpetrator of various human rights violations against villagers, such as violent abuse, forced labour, and explicit threats toward villagers, which are detailed below.
Forced labour, logging and violent abuse
In early 2014, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh had initiated a logging operation and set up his camp in the forest near A--- village, B--- village, and C--- village area in Pa Zwun Myaung village tract, Bu Tho Township. On January 15th 2014, it was reported that when Second Lieutenant Tha Beh engages in logging there, he pays the villagers an unfairly low price for the logs, as well as occasionally takes logs forcibly from villagers. When logging in C--- village, Pa Zwun Myaung village tract, Bu Tho Township, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh demands the use of villagers’ oxcarts or cars from the villages near the logging operation. He forces villagers to work for him without pay and he scolds, swears, hits, and punches the villagers if they are absent from their assigned work day.
The extent of Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s abuse and forced labour was further described by Saw I--- from B--- village, Htee Tha Daw Hta village tract, Bu Tho Township, who said, “His attitude toward the civilians is not good. He does not smile and he always brings a stick with him [to hit villagers with].” According to a villager interviewed by a KHRG researcher, the villagers, including the women and children, have been forced to do anything from making bricks and carrying them with their oxcarts or buffalo carts, to cutting bamboo, splitting firewood and carrying timber by oxcart, truck or even by foot.
The BGF soldiers from Battalion #1014 also continue demanding forced labour from villagers for sentry and porter duty around the area. The village administrator did nothing to come up with a satisfactory solution for the villagers regarding this case. Consequently, many villagers who were in Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s area of influence have fled and relocated to H--- village and other nearby villages to escape Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s demands. Some displaced villagers have returned to their original village, but some remain displaced.
In addition to demanding forced labour, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh has also been reported to abuse villagers who refuse to pay his arbitrary logging tax. On January 13th 2014, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh violently abused Maung J---, a villager from G--- village, in addition to fining him 300,000 kyat (US $257.07) for doing logging without paying tax to him. Second Lieutenant Tha Beh broke the villager’s arm during the abuse. According to the reports received from a KHRG researcher, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh has not been punished for the abuse and injury that he had caused. After the incident, the victim did not dare to go back home and instead decided to stay with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and to rely on them for protection.
On April 2nd 2014, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh had also committed violent abuse against the B--- village head and two other villagers who were on sentry duty. On April 1st 2014, Officer Hpah Mwee from the KNLA asked B--- village head from Htee Tha Daw Hta village tract, Bu Tho Township to send a letter to one of his privates who lives in K--- village. Instead of sending the letter himself, the village head asked a villager who was on sentry duty to send the letter for him. In the letter, Hpah Mwee asked his private to return as soon as possible after receiving the letter. The next morning, when Second Lieutenant Tha Beh found out about this, he ordered the village head and the sentry villager to come and meet him. When Second Lieutenant Tha Beh met the sentry and the village head he punched them angrily without saying anything to them. Meanwhile, K--- village head also arrived on Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s orders and Tha Beh punched him without asking him any questions, as well. Since he kept punching K--- village head continuously, the K--- village head fell down. When he fell down, he desperately brandished his machete in an attempt to cut Second Lieutenant Tha Beh. Tha Beh’s two privates responded by shooting with their AR-15 assault rifles. The village head was shot twice, once in his hand and once in his stomach. The village head’s hand had to be amputated in the hospital as a result of this injury, while Second Lieutenant Tha Beh suffered a wound to his leg, as a result of the bullet exiting the villager’s hand and hitting him in the leg.
Threats and destruction of villager property
Both Second Lieutenant Tha Beh and his subordinate soldiers have made explicit and violent threats against villagers, in addition to confiscating villager property arbitrarily. On one occasion, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh confiscated a forest area which U A---, a villager from M--- village, Htee Tha Daw Htah village tract, Bu Tho Township had purchased from a village elder. Second Lieutenant Tha Beh confiscated the land simply because the village elder dared to complain about his abusive behaviour. Second Lieutenant Tha Beh continued to violently threaten U A--- to stop him from logging in that area:
“Officer Tha Beh told me not to log trees from that forest [area] and that he would shoot me with a gun if I log trees from that forest [area]. [If I did log trees], he would tell people to come after me and he said that he would cut off my head in front of the villagers and then take it [my head] around the village.”
As a result of these threats, U A--- has fled to S--- village and dares not go back to live in M--- village out of fear that Second Lieutenant Tha Beh would cut his throat.
Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s soldiers have also been implicated in various abuses against villagers while under his command, demonstrating a lack of disciplining on his part, as they have not been punished for their actions. Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s subordinate soldiers have physically and verbally threatened villagers for no reason other than being frustrated and were also involved in two incidents where negligence had resulted in the accidental firing of a grenade launcher and the detonation of a landmine.
In the first incident, after losing a fight, BGF Battalion #1014 physically and verbally threatened villagers in L--- village. The incident took place on August 30th 2013, when a fight broke out between the KNLA and BGF. According to the agreement between the KNLA and BGF, the BGF may not cross over to the area that was designated as KNLA territory. However, the BGF did not follow the rules they agreed upon, and so a fight took place in L--- village, Htee Tha Daw Hta village tract, Bu Tho Township. The BGF ultimately had to retreat as they could not win the fight against the KNLA. After the fighting, frustration ran high among the BGF soldiers and they took out their anger on the villagers and their village head, threatening them both verbally and physically. As a consequence, the leader of C--- village, in Htee Tha Daw Hta region migrated to Thailand as he was afraid BGF Second Lieutenant Tha Beh would further abuse him. Another village head, Saw M---, who lives in the downstream part of N--- village remains in the area, but he has not gone to meet with Second Lieutenant Tha Beh again following the incident.
In addition to arbitrary and frustrated threats, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s soldiers have also been implicated in abuses against villagers due to negligence and carelessness. According to an interview with villager Daw A--- from Bu Tho Township, on January 15th 2013, Sergeant Major Hpah Day Day demanded a full gallon of petrol from Daw A---’s husband who is a boat driver. However, the family did not have a full gallon of petrol and so Daw A---’s daughter told him they would provide as much as they have which is about three or four bottles of petrol. Sergeant Major Hpah Day Day declined the offer and started pointing his M79 grenade launcher angrily at Daw A---’s daughter, who was carrying her baby in her arms. He said, “Should I shoot you in the head with this M79?” And Daw A---’s daughter stood up to him, saying “You really want to shoot us and you don’t understand that gunshots kill people?” Then he opened and loaded the M79 and placed it on the ground, facing the woman and her baby. Before Daw A---’s daughter had the chance to leave the place, a grenade come out of the launcher, and although it did not explode, it hit both Daw A---’s daughter and the baby and they had to be sent to the hospital. Daw A--- reported that Sergeant Major Hpah Day Day refused to meet with her after the incident and although he agreed to pay 240,000 kyat (US $205.66) for their medical fees, they received only 100,000 kyat (US $85.69). According to the villagers, Sergeant Major Saw Day Day was drunk when he committed the abuse toward the villager. Another un-named officer from BGF Battalion #1014 came to apologise to Daw A--- for the incident, but asked Daw A--- not to report this incident to any authorities.
In another instance, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s soldiers were involved in a landmine detonation incident. Previously, between the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s subordinates planted landmines in X--- village, Bu Tho Township, Hpapun District, in Naw O---’s sugarcane plantation, which is about a two or three minute walk from her house. One of these landmines detonated under Naw O---’s buffalo on February 5th 2013. Rather than compensating or apologising to the villager, the BGF soldiers who are under Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s control killed and ate the buffalo after it was hit by their landmine.
On March 13th 2013 at 2 pm, there was fighting between the KNLA and the BGF when BGF soldiers entered P--- village, Bwah Der village tract, Bu Tho Township, Hpapun District. The BGF soldiers from Battalion #1014 led by Second Lieutenant Tha Beh did not follow the rule they that had agreed on with the KNLA, as they crossed over the delimited boundary. The KNLA started shooting at them, engaging in a skirmish. During the fighting, a father and a one month old baby were injured. Shrapnel from a M79 grenade launcher hit the father on his right elbow and his child was hit on his right temple. The local villagers did not know if they were hit by shrapnel from a BGF or KNLA grenade launcher, but the fighting was nonetheless a result of Second Lieutenant Tha Beh’s orders which violated the agreement with the KNLA.
Although Second Lieutenant Tha Beh has committed multiple human rights violations, such as violent abuse, forced labour, and arbitrary taxation, he has not been held accountable or punished for what he has done by his Battalion Commander Maung Chit and continues to operate with impunity in the area.