Hpapun Field Report: January to December 2013

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Hpapun Field Report: January to December 2013

Published date:
Wednesday, March 2, 2016

This Field Report includes information submitted by KHRG community members describing events which occurred in Hpapun District between January and December 2013. The report describes human rights violations, including sexual harassment, violent abuses, landmine incidents, forced labour, land confiscation, gold mining, arbitrary taxation, and theft and looting. In addition, fighting between Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Border Guard Force (BGF) soldiers resulted in injury and displacement of villagers. The report also documents villagers’ concerns regarding the stability of the 2012 preliminary ceasefire and issues important to the local communities, such as access to education and healthcare.

  • Between January and December 2013, villagers reported ongoing militarization and use of landmines by Tatmadaw and BGF soldiers in Bu Tho and Dwe Lo townships, resulting in fatalities and injury to villagers and livestock.

  • BGF soldiers committed human rights abuses such as sexual harassment, violent abuse, and demands for forced labour from villagers in Bu Tho Township.

  • Monk U Thuzana’s followers ordered villagers to perform forced labour for the monk’s bridge construction project.

  • A private gold mining enterprise has been endangering villagers’ health in Dwe Lo Township. Villagers expressed their opposition to gold mining projects in the area by producing placards and posting them along the road and the river.

Footnotes

[1] 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 Burma/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.

[2] 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.

[3] In this report, “ceasefire” refers to the preliminary ceasefire agreement that was signed on January 12th 2012 between the KNU and Burma/Myanmar government in Hpa-an. For KHRG's analysis of changes in human rights conditions since the preliminary ceasefire, see Truce or Transition? Trends in human rights abuse and local response since the 2012 ceasefire, KHRG, May 2014. On October 15th 2015, after a negotiation process marred with controversy over the notable non-inclusion of several ethnic armed groups and on-going conflicts in ethnic regions, a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was signed between the Burma/Myanmar government and eight of the fifteen ethnic armed groups originally invited to the negotiation table, including the KNU, see “Myanmar signs ceasefire with eight armed groups,” Reuters, October 15th 2015.

[5] Saw Tha Beh is a Second 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: “Hpapun Incident Report: Violent abuse in Bu Tho Township, April 2014,” KHRG, November 2014; “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; and “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, November 2013 to February 2014,” KHRG, August 2014.

[6] This information was also included in an unpublished Incident Report from Hpapun District received by KHRG in July 2013.

[7] This information was also included in an unpublished Incident Report from Hpapun District received by KHRG in July 2013.

[8] See “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, March to May 2013,” KHRG, December 2013.

[9] This information was also included in an unpublished Interview from Hpapun District received by KHRG in July 2013.

[10] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the February 23rd 2016 official market rate of 1,237.60 kyat to the US $1.

[11] See “Hpapun and Hpa-an Situation Update: Bu Tho and Hlaingbwe townships, April to May 2013,” KHRG, June 2014.

[12] See “Hpapun Interview: Daw A---, July 2013,” KHRG, May 2015.

[13] This information was also included in an unpublished Situation Update from Hpapun District received by KHRG in July 2013.

[14] See “Landmine explosion and death of villagers in Papun District,” KHRG, May 2013.

[15] Military Operations Command. Composed of ten battalions for offensive operations. Most MOCs have three Tactical Operations Commands (TOCs), made up of three battalions each.

[16] See “Hpapun Incident Report: Landmine Incident in Lu Thaw Township, May 2013,” KHRG, December 2014. Please note that G--- village has been censored as A--- village in this previously published report.

[17] See “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, August to November 2013,” KHRG, August 2014.

[18] This information was also included in an unpublished Interview from Hpapun District received by KHRG in February 2013.

[19] See “Hpapun Interview: Saw A---, February 2013,” KHRG, July 2014.

[20] See “Papun Situation Update: Forced labour in Bu Tho Township, January to February 2013,” KHRG, April 2013. Please note that in this previously published report, Htee Lah Beh Hta bridge has been misspelled as Htee Lah Eh Hta, however both names are referring to the same bridge.

[21] U Thuzana is an influential Buddhist monk based in Myaing Gyi Ngu who was instrumental in the formation of the DKBA in 1994; see "Inside the DKBA," KHRG, March 1996. In 1995, KHRG reported that U Thuzana had collaborated with the Tatmadaw, and met with then-Southeastern Commander Major General Maung Hla to obtain weapons and supplies for 4,000 soldiers in his monastery. As a result of the agreement, U Thuzana’s monastery in Myaing Gyi Ngu, in northern Hpa-an District, reportedly developed a reputation as a mystical safe haven for villagers avoiding Tatmadaw abuses. See “Karen Human Rights Group commentary,” KHRG, February 1995.

[22] Merit (Pāli puñña) is a concept in Buddhism and Hinduism. Merit is said to be that which accumulates as a result of good deeds, acts, or thoughts, and which carries over throughout one’s life and one’s subsequent incarnations.

[23] See “Incident Report: Monk orders forced labour for bridge construction, Hpapun District,” KHRG, October 2013.

[24] See “Hpapun and Hpa-an Situation Update: Bu Tho and Hlaingbwe townships, April to May 2013,” KHRG, June 2014.

[25] This information was also included in an unpublished Incident Report from Hpapun District received by KHRG in July 2013.

[26] In previously published KHRG reports, the Sergeant’s name was also spelled Saw Dah Tu, rather than Saw Dah Too; however, both spellings refer to the same individual.

[27] See “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, August to October 2013,” KHRG, February 2014.

[28] Light Infantry Battalion (Tatmadaw) comprises 500 soldiers. However, most Light Infantry Battalions in the Tatmadaw are under-strength with less than 200 soldiers. Primarily for offensive operations but sometimes used for garrison duties.

[29] See, “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, March to May 2013,” KHRG, December 2013.

[30] This information was also included in an unpublished Incident Report from Hpapun District received by KHRG in November 2013.

[31] Maung Chit Thu, commonly referred to as Chit Thu, was the operations commander of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Battalion #999 prior to the DKBA transformation into the Tatmadaw Border Guard Force, which began in September 2010. His role has grown considerably since the transformation, and he is now second in command of Tatmadaw BGF forces, overseeing BGF battalions #1017, #1018, #1019 and #1012 based in Ko Ko, Hpa-an District. Abuses committed by Maung Chit Thu have been cited in previous KHRG reports, including ordering the forcible relocation of villagers from eight villages in Lu Pleh Township in July 2011, while acting as a Border Guard commander, see, “Pa’an Situation Update: June to August 2011,” KHRG, October 2011. For more information on the DKBA/Border Guard transformation, see, for example: “Border Guard Forces of Southeast Command formed in Paingkyon of Kayin State,” New Light of Myanmar, August 22nd 2010; and “Border Guard Force formed at Atwinkwinkalay region, Myawaddy Township, Kayin State,” New Light of Myanmar, August 25th  2010.         

[32] See “Papun Situation Update: Dwe Lo Township, March 2012 to March 2013,” KHRG, July 2013

[33] See “Hpapun Incident Report: Destruction of paddy nursery field in Dwe Lo Township, November 2012,” KHRG, July 2014. Please note that in this report, Saw L--- has been censored as Saw A--- and J--- village has been censored as K--- village.

[35] See “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho, Lu Thaw and Dwe Lo townships, January 2013,” KHRG, June 2014.

[36] 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.

[37] See “Hpapun District Situation Update: Dwe Lo Township, January to February 2013,” KHRG, July 2014.

[39] This information was also included in an unpublished Situation Update from Hpapun District received by KHRG in November 2013.