Situation Update | Kyonedoe and Kawkareik townships, Dooplaya District (July to November 2014)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in November 2014. It was written by a community member in Dooplaya 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.
The condition of civilian life and the situation of the [Burma/Myanmar] government, DKBA [Democratic Karen Benevolent Army], Karen Peace Council (KPC), Karen Peace Force (KPF) and the KNU [Karen National Union] was recorded from some villages in Kruh Tu [Kyonedoe] and Kaw T’Ree [Kawkareik] townships from July to November 2014 and appear briefly below.
Civilian condition and occupation
The majority of civilians in Kruh Tu [Kyonedoe] and Kaw T’Ree [Kawkareik] townships main occupations are farming and plantation work. In our region, we are doing farming and crop irrigation. Even though the farming is rather good [crops are growing well] now, as it is not the time to harvest we cannot predict if the crops will be fruitful or not.
For those people who live near the foothill areas, some durian garden lands are not bearing fruit, the leaves of the trees are turning yellow and the trees are falling. The size of the rubber gardens have increased, which means that villagers' animals do not have as much room to graze. Some civilians are trading goods but as the amount of tax is high, the commodity price is high too. Now the rainy season is over and the transition into spring has begun, some civilians are trading yams. The government is buying dried yams as a raw material. If the yams are wet, they have to dry it. To dry the yam they need kilns, which are taxed. One kiln costs [are taxed] 100,000 kyat (US $97.40) and the money goes to DKBA Battalion #907’s Battalion Commander Saw Ba Nyein. The KNU are also going to charge tax on yam kilns however they have not charged anything yet, so we do not know how much they are going to ask for. Although civilians have to pay the tax they still make a profit so they keep doing it. At the end of September 2014, travellers and traders were questioned by the government due to the fighting between DKBA and Tatmadaw soldiers. The situation is getting better now and interrogations have reduced.
In the region that I entered [Kyonedoe and Kawkareik townships], the major diseases that civilians suffer from are malaria, distended stomach and upset bowls, hypertension, body ache, scabies, wet scabies, and we found that there are also some malnourished children too. Some civilians who suffer with these diseases receive treatment from the [local] clinic. For less serious illnesses they [civilians] will use traditional treatment, but for the serious diseases they are referred to the surrounding township clinics and hospitals. For some patients who are not able to afford the financial cost of the treatment they will leave hospital and go back to their village receiving irregular treatment as it is less expensive this way. In some villages there are clinics and medics that are provided by the [Burma/Myanmar] government, however there is not sufficient medication from the government clinics. Even though it is a free clinic the treatment available is only for coughing and the common cold. Patients therefore have to be referred to the township hospital when the illness is serious. We also know that villagers have to support the government medics and nurses with living arrangements, food and with anything else they may need.
In our townships there are township clinics that were opened by the KNU which are free of charge. Although each township has [Burma/Myanmar government] Anti-Malaria Teams, there are [additional] government organisations and associations entering the community [other than the] Anti-Malaria Team, including Mother and Child Care and Polio Protection and Immunisation and Anti-Tuberculosis. Villagers do not know which injection they should get and they also worry that they will not get the right injection. In 2013 a medical complication arose after a villager had an injection for elephantiasis. Because of the 2013 medical complication, villagers were concerned with which health teams [or organisations] will arrive next to give help. The KNU stated that in KNU areas, any organisation working on a project in the community should inform the local responsible persons [persons in charge of the community] in advance.
The civilians [who have children] want their children to have access to education. For the parents who earn daily wages, they are not able to take their children to school; some children have to look after their younger brothers and sisters and some children have to assist their parents. Some parents of children who have finished primary and middle school were not able to keep supporting their education so [the children] had to quit school and help their parents. Some go to neighbouring countries, like Thailand, and look for a job. Some schools are self-reliant which are organised among villagers for the children. They hire the teachers by providing 60 (1,920 kg. or 4,224.4 lb.) to 70 (2,240 kg. or 4,928 lb.) baskets of rice per teacher [per year]. Some villages that are close to the city have built nursery schools and kindergarten schools by cooperating with the government and United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Some villages are still applying to get permission from the township level Education Department to build the schools. Some branch schools have been opened with the cooperation of the government. Even though the teachers get a salary, the villagers still have to support the teachers with everything they need, including basic food products like rice and oil, as well as accommodation. In some villages, villagers do not have to support the teachers and in some they do. Some villages receive support from UNCIEF and via this organisation they attract primary students to start learning by giving 1,000 kyat (US $0.97) per student. Moreover, they provided free access to items such as books that are needed in school. In some schools students do not get 1,000 kyat and no access to items such as books is provided. Furthermore, they have to personally buy everything that they need. From the KNU side, the KED [Karen Education Department] gives support by providing exercise books, chalk, pencils, pens, playing equipment and toys and they annually support the teachers financially and with various school tasks through a self-supporting basis [independent school].
Some schools are built with bamboo so they have to be repaired every year. While repairing the school, we have difficulties with the bamboo, wood and thatch. If we need wood we can ask for help from KNU forest administrator. We have to deal with it by cooperating with the whole village for the rest of the materials we need. Some villages do not have the space for schools and playgrounds and expanding land in order to build them is a problem and not always possible.
Due to the [Burma/Myanmar] military government’s current temporary ceasefire, the Tatmadaw are not as active in the community as they have been in the past. However, they do still occasionally order the villagers to porter their bags, ammunition and hens, and they often ask for the use of a hand tractor to help with the transportation. The villagers have to transport the armed group’s belongings and often have to pay for fuel. Through government road and communication improvements, companies constructed a vehicle road with the width of 40 cubits (1,828 cm. or 720 in.) and some villagers lost their land and plantations and they did not receive any compensation for this destruction.
At the beginning of 2013, in Kaw T’Ree [Kawkareik] Township, at A’zin Chaung Pyar and A’zin villages, the [Burma/Myanmar government] Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs provided 90,000,000 kyat (US $87,882.00) in funds to be dispersed to the Kyaik Don branch township officer in charge, Saw Ba Shwe [leader of the electricity generation project]. The Ministry of Progress and Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs said that villagers do not need to spend [their own] money for the electric dynamo and power lines. [In reality,] villagers were forced [by Saw Ba Shwe] to work on the project; and moreover, they had to buy the power lines and electric meters by themselves. One electric meter cost 25,000 kyat (US $24.30) [per household] and for the houses which happen to be located close to the main power line, the [total] cost [of installing an electric supply to their home, including the electric meter and the electric wires] was 85,000 kyat (US $82.60) [on average. Houses further away had to pay more]. They were also told that they will be charged 500 kyat (US $0.50) for one unit of usage. [However, at first,] it will be free of charge for three months. The officer in charge, Saw Ba Shwe, said [before they began this project] that they will hire an electric engineer from Shan State and the cost [of hiring the engineer] will be paid by them [the committee in charge of the project, but in reality, villagers still had to contribute financially].
This electricity is available in A’zin Chaung Pya village and some houses in A’zin village already have electricity. It cannot be said how long this electricity will last because the power line does not have protection [from the elements or human interference] and villagers have said that it can also be dangerous.
BGF [Border Guard Force]
There is no information regarding the activities of this organisation. The one thing worth mentioning is that the gate tax is a permanent charge.
No special information is known about this organisation. Nothing is known about its community service.
No activity or community service was found for this organisation apart from that they charge a gate tax.
Although there is no community service in the activities of this organisation, we know they are affiliated with drug commerce and some youths are negatively affected by using drugs. At the end of September  there was some tension between DKBA battalions and the Tatmadaw based on a fight between the DKBA and government troops [Tatmadaw]. Furthermore, in September 2014, DKBA Battalion Commander Saw Ba Nyein, from Battalion #907 led by Saw Chit, recruited new privates in some villages in Kaw T’Ree [Kawkareik] Township. Depending on the village size, if the village is big enough, they would recruit more than two villagers. If village was small, they would collect one private in order to increase the number of privates in the battalion. Youths who are not interested in joining the DKBA have to pay money instead. As far as we know, villages that had to pay money are Kwin K’lay village: 4,500,000 kyat (US $4,367.14); A’zin village and Tha De Koh village: 7,500,000 kyat (US $7,273.57) and A’zin village: 2,800,000 kyat (US $2,715.47) was charged. The remaining villages: Mi Tan village, Mi Nan Aat village, K’mah Kler village, Kwee Kler village and Meh Tharaw Tah village have already paid, but I do not know how much. Moreover, one of the villagers said that DKBA Battalion #907 charged villagers who dry yams in the village. They were required to pay [tax] for one kiln, which is 100,000 kyat (US $97.19).
KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army] Battalion #18 were preparing for the increase in soldiers. They discussed with villagers and held public talks in the community and convinced youth above eighteen years old who were interested to be serviceman for at least three years, some young people participated enthusiastically .There is no new private recruitment in the rest of the townships in Dooplaya District. They practice and perform according to the previous procedures and processes in terms of politics, military affairs, and persuasion.
As for the conclusion, during the temporary ceasefire period with the [Burma/Myanmar] military government, various organisations such as social organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are entering into the area, as there are many armed groups in the region. Based on this condition, in order not to harm the KNU and the local community, we have to follow the law and rule of the region that has been set up by the mother organization, the KNU.