Hpa-an Interview: Naw A---, June 2015

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Hpa-an Interview: Naw A---, June 2015

Published date:
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

This Interview with Naw A--- describes land confiscation, local drug supply and drug use, arbitrary taxation and demands in Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa-an District. Naw A--- describes how her family’s and other villagers’ lands were confiscated in 1991 and 1992 by Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #338. Her family’s land was confiscated despite the fact that they had official land documents issued by the Burma/Myanmar government. The villagers were told that they would receive compensation for the land that was confiscated but at the time of this Interview, Naw A--- had not heard of anyone who had received compensation. Naw A--- further describes drug use in Hlaingbwe Township and how the local community is trying to address it. Some local community leaders have formed a working group together with a senior monk and representatives from the Karen National Union (KNU) in order to put an end to drug use in the area. However, Naw A--- explains that there has been little progress on eliminating the use of drugs.

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 southeast 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] Saya (male) or sayama (female) is a Burmese/Myanmar term used for any teacher, pastor, or any person to whom one wishes to show respect.

[4] In addition to LIB #338, KHRG has also received information suggesting that LIB #339 and Infantry Battalion (IB) #28 confiscated villagers land in the area. A Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) comprises 500 soldiers. However, most Light Infantry Battalions in the Tatmadaw are under-strength with less than 200 soldiers. LIBs are primarily used for offensive operations, but they are sometimes used for garrison duties.

[5] ‘Siblings’ here is used in a broader sense than brothers and sisters; the interviewee calls some of her relatives siblings as well.

[6] The Farmland Investigation Commission is a parliamentary commission set up in 2012 to investigate farmland ownership disputes. It reports to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (the Assembly of the Union), the bicameral national legislature of Burma/Myanmar.

[7] The Plone-Sgaw Democratic Party (PSDP) is a political party based in Kayin State. The party won several seats in the 2010 election but was not successful in the 2015 election. They are now reportedly in talks with four other Karen parties to unite under one banner. See e.g. Five Karen Political Parties to Unite Into One, Karen News (January 29, 2016)

[8] Daw Nan Say Awa is a former member of parliament from Hpa-an for the Plone-Sgaw Democratic Party (PSDP).

[9] It is not clear why the interviewee brings the KNU into the discussion here. One reason might be to give an example from her own experience of how the KNU had consulted with local communities when they confiscated land in the past, as opposed to when the Tatmadaw confiscated land without any form of consultation.

[10] It is not clear what township the interviewee is referring to here. There is no township called Karen Township.

[11] Sayadaw is a Burmese/Myanmar term used for the senior monk or abbot of a monastery.

[12] Yaba, which means ‘crazy medicine’ in Thai, is a tablet form of methamphetamine. First developed in East Asia during the Second World War to enhance soldiers' performance, methamphetamine has become increasingly popular in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and in Burma/Myanmar where it is typically manufactured. See, "Yaba, the 'crazy medicine’ of East Asia," UNODC, May 2008 and “Woman raped and killed in Pa’an District, October 2012,” KHRG, December 2012, and “Chapter: Drug production, use and the social impacts in Southeast Myanmar since the January 2012 ceasefire,” KHRG, June 2014.

[13] A standard refers to a school year in the education system of Burma/Myanmar. The basic education system has a 5-4-2 structure. Primary school runs from Standard 1 to Standard 5, lower secondary school is Standards 6-9, and upper secondary school is Standards 10-11.

[14] Daw Nan Say Awa is a former member of parliament from Hpa-an for the Plone-Sgaw Democratic Party (PSDP). The party won several seats in the 2010 election but was not successful in the 2015 election. They are now reportedly in talks with four other Karen parties to unite under one banner. See e.g. Five Karen Political Parties to Unite into One, Karen News (January 29, 2016).

[15] The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), sometimes referred to as the Klo Htoo Baw Battalion or DKBA-5, formerly the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Army, was formed in December 1994 and was originally a breakaway group from the KNU/KNLA. They were known to cooperate with the Tatmadaw on occasion. The DKBA now refers to a splinter group from those DKBA forces that were absorbed into Tatmadaw Border Guard Forces in 2010, also remaining independent of the KNLA. The DKBA leader for many years was Saw Lah Pwe, who led the group after it rejected government plans to integrate it into Border Guard Forces in 2010. The current DKBA signed a preliminary ceasefire with the Burma/Myanmar Government on November 3rd 2011. As of April 2012, the DKBA changed its name from "Buddhist" to "Benevolent" to reflect its secularity. The DKBA signed the Nationwide Ceasefire (NCA) on October 15th 2015 with the Burma/Myanmar government and its military. The group is based in Son Si Myaing area, Myawaddy Town, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District.

[16] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the May 10th 2016 official market rate of 1,165.68 kyats to the US $1.