Situation Update | Dwe Lo Township, Hpapun District (August to October 2015)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in November 2015. It was written by a community member in Hpapun District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security.
The information in this Situation Update was documented from August 1st 2015 to October 25th 2015, in Dwe Lo Township. It includes updates on Tatmadaw activities, forced labour, arbitrary demands, land confiscation, the situation for civilians, civilians’ livelihoods, healthcare, and education. This information was collected by me, a KHRG community member. I report it as I collected it, shown in the text below.
Since [the signing of] the [preliminary] ceasefire in 2012, the civilians who live in Dwe Lo Township have suffered less from forced labour, extortion, and killings. Such abuses, committed by the Tatmadaw, have decreased by 80%. Regarding land confiscation of plantations belonging to villagers, the Karen [Karen National Union (KNU)] leaders arranged for them to get compensation.
The Tatmadaw situation
In Dwe Lo Township, the number of Tatmadaw army camps is still the same as I have previously reported. They did not reduce or decrease the number of army camps and they still exist as before. They rotate their military [units on a] quarterly [basis]. When they rotated their military [units], they sometimes did not follow the rule not to cross over delimited territory and travel only in their own territory. They did not strictly follow it. If they saw villagers travelling on the same road as them they did not disturb and question them like they used to. During 2015, some Tatmadaw army camps were being repaired
In terms of Tatmadaw activities, sometimes their small columns patrolled and asked villagers to porter for them and forced them to do other things.
The Tatmadaw IB [Infantry Battalion] #96, which is based in Waw Muh army camp, forced motorboat owners to carry food and luggage for them and gave only petrol as compensation, not money. They mostly asked B--- villagers. The Tatmadaw [soldiers] in Dwe Lo Township annually force villagers in A--- valley to carry rations, enough to last for one year, to their army camp. They forced villagers who own motorboats to transport their rations. In order for them [the Tatmadaw] to be able to transport their rations themselves, they asked for permission from the Karen [KNU] leaders, who gave them permission, and they could then transport their rations freely.
The Tatmadaw [soldiers] who are stationed in Dwe Lo Township made fewer arbitrary demands concerning [obtaining] thatch shingles and bamboo from villagers. If they needed bamboo and thatch shingles, they sometimes asked the village heads, and the village heads in turn asked villagers to produce it for them, and [the Tatmadaw] paid [the villagers] the price that the village heads had decided.
Since the [2012 preliminary] ceasefire was signed, the villagers who live in Dwe Lo Township have been able to stay in their villages. In the past, they fled into the jungle as displaced persons, but at present they are able to return to their own villages and live peacefully. They have better chances to work and travel now.
The villagers in Dwe Lo Township mostly earn their living from cultivation, farming, sesame plantations, and bean plantations. Some civilians are involved in trade and earn a profit from selling goods. This is how the villagers earn their living. In 2015, some paddies were destroyed by floods and unfavourable weather after they had been planted, especially in the plain farms. Furthermore, at the period of rice seed production, the paddies were attacked by insects. They have no insecticides to kill the insects and therefore many paddies were damaged. Some people [whose crops had been destroyed] had to work as day labourers in the hill farms and plain farms in order to get rice from other villagers, whose paddies were growing well and had not been damaged by floods and insects.
From the first to the fifth month of 2015 the villagers who live in Meh Way village tract and Meh Thoo village tract faced gold mining and land confiscation [problems]. Many plantations of villagers that are located near where the gold mining is taking place were damaged. The Karen [KNU] leaders organised [for land confiscation victims] to get 2 million kyat (US $1,547.80) per acre of [confiscated] land as compensation for those whose land plantations had been confiscated, and they [the confiscators] gave it [the compensation] to the villagers. The civilians whose plantations were damaged [by the gold mining] cannot plant crops on their lands anymore. In order for them to be able to grow their crops they have to find new places in other areas to continue farming.
The illnesses that the civilians who live in Dwe Lo Township mostly face are flu, malaria, fever, and joint pain in legs and arms. In terms of treatment for villagers, neither Tatmadaw [Burma/Myanmar government] nor Karen [KNU] healthcare departments are good enough to treat them. The civilians who face the illnesses [listed above] treat themselves in the villages, and if they do not feel better they go to the hospitals in the towns. It costs a lot of money when they go for treatment in the towns. Some civilians do not have money; therefore, they find a way to go to the old people and get some knowledge from them, and they then treat themselves with herbal medicine and get better.
The civilians who live in our area, especially the children who are old enough to study, have good opportunities to study, but in our area there are not yet schools in all of the villages. If the children pass seven and eight standards they go on to finish their studies in the towns, camps, and other places where high schools are located. This is how the children try to finish [high] school.
I collected all the information in this report myself and I saw it with my own eyes. The information is true, therefore I reported it.