Hpa-an Interview: Saw H---, February 2016

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Hpa-an Interview: Saw H---, February 2016

Published date:
Tuesday, August 9, 2016

This Interview with Saw H--- describes events occurring in Hpa-an Township, Hpa-an District, during the period in April 2015, including land confiscation and explicit threats.

  • A business named Kyaw Hlwan Moe and Brothers Company confiscated 500 acres of uncultivated land which included villagers’ rubber plantations, teak plantations and pastureland.
  • Villagers have land grants for their farms but they do not have land grants for the pasturelands. The company cleared the plants in the plantation and made the plots with the purpose of selling these plots to other people.
  • Saw H--- describes that another company named Mya Htay Kywe Lin Company also confiscated 1,150 acres of land which included many villagers’ farm lands and plantations.
  • The interviewee also reports that some of villagers’ lands are included in an industrial zone that was planned by the Burma/Myanmar government.
  • Villagers have been threatened by the Kyaw Hlwan Moe and Brothers Company and Border Guard Force (BGF) soldiers to not work on their land anymore and were forced to move from their lands.
  • Villagers used their own strategies by meeting with the company in charge and the local authority as well as submitting complaint letters to township, district, state levels and central government but they have not gotten back their land yet.

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] Saw is a S’gaw Karen male honorific title used before a person’s name.

[4] A village tract is an administrative unit of between five and 20 villages in a local area, often centred on a large village.

[5] Hpa-an Township as the villager refers to it here is as defined by the Burma/Myanmar government, rather than the KNU definition of Karen township.

[6] Pa Lat is a Burmese term referring to land that is not being used for plantation, despite being plantation land. There are two kinds of Pa Lat land. (1) Pa Lat land which is no longer being used to restore the soil, or on which plantation cannot currently be done; and (2) Pa Lat land which cannot currently be used but would be usable after maintenance.

[7] 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.

[8] 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: he was second in command of Tatmadaw Border Guard Forces, overseeing BGF battalions #1017, #1018, #1019 and #1012, and is now a senior advisor and general secretary of the Karen State BGF central commandbased 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.

[9] U is a Burmese title used for elder men, used before their name.

[10] Naypyidaw (also spelled Nay Pyi Taw) is the capital city of Burma/Myanmar. In 2005 the military regime moved the capital from Rangoon to a greenfield at its present location, 320 kilometers (200 miles) north of the city. See “Nay Pyi Taw now less of a ghost town,” Bangkok Post, December 11th 2013.

[11] S’gaw Karen term for a person in a position of authority in civil administration.

[12] The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) was originally formed in 1994 as a breakaway group from the KNLA. Since its separation from the KNLA in 1994, it was known to frequently cooperate with and support the Tatmadaw in its conflict with the KLNA. The original group underwent major change in 2010 as the majority of the original DKBA was transformed into the BGF, which is under the control of the Burma/Myanmar government, while the rest of the original DKBA formed a smaller splinter group, which is often referred to as DKBA-5 and changed its name in 2012 from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army to the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. Following this major change in 2010, the original DKBA is considered to no longer exist as a distinct entity as it has now been submerged within the BGF. This original DKBA (Buddhist) (1994 – 2010) should not be confused with either the DKBA (Benevolent) (2010 – present) which was formed as a breakaway group from the original DKBA (Buddhist) (1994 – 2010), or with the DKBA (Buddhist) (2016 – present) which was formed as a splinter group from the DBKA (Benevolent) (2010 – present) in 2016. For more information on the formation of the DKBA, see “Inside the DKBA,” KHRG, 1996.

[13] ta won kyay meaning responsible and sa ba meaning paddy. It refers to villagers growing rice for the government.

[14] Sa Sa Sa (Sa Thone Lone) was the intelligence service during the SPDC era. It was replaced by Sa Ya Pa (Military Security Affairs) in 2004, after Khin Nyunt fell from favour.

[15] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the August 2nd 2016 official market rate of 1,186 kyats to US $1