Hpapun Interview: Naw A---, April 2015

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Hpapun Interview: Naw A---, April 2015

Published date:
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This Interview with Naw A--- describes events occurring in Lu Thaw Township, Hpapun District in April 2015, including arbitrary taxation and community development efforts.

  • The Karen National Union (KNU) has collected 16 kinds of taxes from the villagers in Lu Thaw Township. Naw A--- reported that these taxes are too heavy for the villagers to afford, and that they have been increasing since 2009. At the KNU annual meeting, some villagers asked for a decrease in taxes or at least for the KNU to issue receipts, and the KNU agreed to issue receipts for the taxes they will collect in 2015, as well as retroactively for the taxes collected in 2014.
  • According to Naw A---, Lu Thaw and Dwe Lo townships in Hpapun District received development assistance from the Burma/Myanmar government in the form of solar panels. The KNU allowed the villagers to keep the solar panels, but warned them not to allow this gift from the Burma/Myanmar government affect their political opinions.
  • In 2014, the Burma/Myanmar government also provided eight motorcycles to the KNU. However, the KNU told the villagers that the motorcycles never made it into their custody, as they have been intercepted by alcoholics, who broke the motorcycles before the KNU could get to them. Naw A--- expressed her scepticism of this version of events, as she witnessed a representative of the KNU travel to B--- village in order to receive the motorcycles.

Footnotes

[1] KHRG trains community members in southeast 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 southeastern 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 categorised by Type, Issue, Location and Year, please see the Related Readings component following each report on KHRG’s website.

[3] The term Kawthoolei (or Kaw Thoo Lei) refers to Karen State as demarcated by the Karen National Union (KNU), but the exact meaning and etymology is disputed; see: Jonathan Falla. True Love and Bartholomew: Rebels on the Burmese Border, Cambridge University Press: 1991.

[4] 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.

[5] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the January 19th 2016 official market rate of 1,298.80 kyat to the US $1.

[6] Thara (male) or Thara Mu (female) is a Karen term used for any teacher, pastor, or any person to whom one wishes to show respect.

[7] It appears the interviewee misunderstood the question or chose not to directly answer the question but rather change the subject from the solar panels to the land survey.

[8] A Standard refers to a grade in the Burmese education system. Primary school runs from Standard 1 to Standard 4, middle school is Standards 5-8 and high school is Standards 9-10.

[9] Kyaw Pya used to be a KNDO commander, but has retired.

[10] Thara (male) or tharamu (female) is a Karen term used for any teacher, pastor, or any person to whom one wishes to show respect.

[11] From previous reports from Hpapun District, KHRG is aware that the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) operates in the area.

[12] Burmese prefix meaning ‘officer’

[13] An Operations Commander (G3) is responsible for planning, strategy and training officers. Also known as strategic / Tactical Commander.

[14] Although the interviewee mentions the trouble that DKBA used to cause them in the area in the past, and then continues to talk of a recent case involving the Tatmadaw and KNU, both statements are meant to illustrate that due to the history of armed-group conflict in the region, Governor Buh That has become a very cautious man and does not wish to trigger more conflict, as he has to work both with the KNU and the Tatmadaw. This cautiousness, according to Naw A---, is the reason he did not permit the Karen convention representatives to come into the village.

[15] According to Naw A---, Governor Buh Thaw was afraid because, as a governor, he tries to maintain neutrality between the Tatmadaw and the KNU, collaborating with both. He did not dare to deliver the letter in question because he was not sure what the contents of the letter were, and he feared that if the receiver does not like it, his relationship with them may become strained.