Situation Update | Kyonedoe Township, Dooplaya District (September 2015 to December 2015)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in January 2016. It was written by a community member in Dooplaya 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.This report was received along with other information from Dooplaya District, including five interviews, 77 photographs and five video clips.
This Situation Update describes briefly the events occurring in Kyonedoe Township, Dooplaya District from September to December 2015. It includes the situation for civilians, agriculture, education, healthcare, Burma/Myanmar government and BGF [Border Guard Force], KNU [Karen National Union], DKBA [Democratic Karen Benevolent Army] and KPC [Karen Peace Council].
Civilians’ situation and farming, gardening, cultivation
The local people in Kyonedoe Township mainly earn their living from cultivation and plot farming. This year they have had just a fair harvest as the weather has been unusual. It was raining during harvesting. As a result, some of the paddy was spoiled. Some people said the rice price will increase in the coming year, 2016.
Currently the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement [NCA] is being signed by different armed groups and the Burma/Myanmar government. However, this year Battalion Commander Aung Yin’s group from DKBA Battalion #901 collected tax on plot farms, farms, rice mills, sawmills, cars, charcoal mounds, irrigation canals and fishing nets, [just] as KNU collected tax last year [and every year]. Therefore, the civilians want only one organisation to collect taxes if possible.
Furthermore, they [local civilians] also want KHRG to report about drug issues in the local area in order to reduce [drug use], because young people’s behaviours are becoming worse and worse due to drug use.
On January 6th 2015, U Myin Zaw who works for Daw N Haw Company constructed a road from K’Nyin K’Taik to Tha Main Dwut crossroads, which is 16 miles long. As a result, many of the villagers’ farms and plot farms were affected. However, the villagers did not get any compensation. Moreover, they [the company] [worked on] a road across the farms and they covered the road with earth, so it is difficult [for villagers] to make irrigation channels [to drain water into their fields]. Consequently, there are many farms that are not able to grow rice [because of this road construction] between Khyin village and T’Khon Ka village.
This road construction should have been completed by the end of December 2015. Thus, Major Thet Naung who leads Na Wa Ta [The Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs] in Kawkareik Township came and observed the situation of the road construction. He saw that the road had not been finished yet and its quality was not good. Also, the road has many sharp curves; because of that [Major Thet Naung’s disapproval of the road construction], villagers said some road constructors and the governor from Ai Paing village were beaten as punishment.
Now, in 2015, Daw N Haw Company still has not finished the road, so they requested assistance from Khin Zaw Company to continue the road construction. The road is 3 miles long from Khyin Village to Tha Main Dwut Street. Therefore, Atun, the manager from Khin Zaw Company, started to construct the unfinished road on November 28th 2015.
Many of the civilians’ lands and plot farms were spoiled and destroyed as Khin Zaw Company constructed the road. However, the road must be constructed to make it 40 feet wide which was the limit given, but villagers said that they [Khin Zaw Company] would construct the road to be 30 feet wide on November 30th 2015.
The land owners dared not to report or talk about their lands and rubber plantations that were destroyed due to road construction, because this road construction was permitted by responsible people in the Township office. So it was difficult to document how many lands and plantations were spoiled. People from A--- village said the reason [that villagers have not reported about their land being damaged] is that the village head went to meet the villagers at their houses, one by one, at night and he asked them to sign the agreement paper in order to get permission for road construction.
During February 2015, in Kyonedoe Township, the road from Taung Kya Inn village to Hti Hu Thi village and Aung Chan Tha village was rebuilt, since it was first constructed in the period of colonisation. Because of the rebuilding of this road, many lands and plantations were also spoiled. Land owners also did not get any compensation. Although people who have accountability [at the Burma/Myanmar government level] gave the paper documenting land destruction, no documentation paper has been received [prepared]. If anyone wanted to know about this case, they had to go and meet with the Township administrator.
On December 1st 2015 the villagers went to the office where the Kyonedoe Township Campaign Officer lives and they asked questions like, “How did you know about the new road construction and the old road construction?” He told them that the old and new roads were constructed because the local residents requested for road construction. So there is no need to document lands that were destroyed because of road construction. Also, he said that the ILO [International Labour Organisation] would not come if anyone reported this case to the ILO or KHRG.
He replied [to the villagers], “I do not make it [the documentation paper] complicated. All of the information about lost land and plantations that were destroyed must be documented due to road construction that occurred in each District according to the 14th Dooplaya Congress in 2015”.
The road from Taung Kya Inn village to Hti Hu Thi village and Aung Chan Tha village has not been finished yet, so Khin Zaw Company will completely take care of this case. As mentioned above, this [report] is just because no one has documented the lost lands and the destroyed plantations due to old and new road construction in Kyonedoe Township.
The old road from Chaung Nit Khwart village to Aung Chan Tha village had been constructed since Burma/Myanmar was colonised by the British. In September 2015, Lieutenant Kyaw Aay from BGF [Border Guard Force] Battalion #1021 together with Ngwe Kyauk Twein Company, Than Zaw Oo who is in charge of road construction, U Aung Thein Lah who is in charge of bridge construction and Bo T’Ki who leads the road security force from BGF [Border Guard Force] organised for the old road to be to rebuilt. However, they did not need to construct the section of the road that goes to Chaung Nit Khwart village; only the road from Bu Ya Kon village to Aung Chan Tha village must be constructed. Although this road is 9 miles and 1 furlong long and 100 feet wide, they only would use a width of 18 feet when they lay down flat stone on the road. They have to finish this road by the end of March 2016.
3K Star Company has to take responsibility to construct 2 miles of this road. Engineer U Myin Than and his assistant engineer, Way Lin Han arrived at the road that needs to be rebuilt on November 24th 2015.
This road is between Noh T’Kaw Township and Kyonedoe Township. Thus, neither of these Township officials gave permission or authority [to the company] to construct this road. 140 acres of rubber plantation were destroyed, 5 plots of farmland were spoiled, 1 garden of lime trees was damaged, and one building was damaged due to the road construction. The villagers who lost their lands, plot farms, farms, and buildings did not know anything about how to report or submit this information. They are helpless like an orphan [without support].
The rubber plantation beside this road belongs to the villagers. They had to cut their rubber trees [to make way for the road] although they did not want to.
In 2014 Director Po Ya Wa Gya from SCGC (Japanese company) and U Myin Zaw Tun who is in charge of road construction, had to take responsibility for laying down flat stones on the road from T’Ya Na village in Mon State to Bu Ya Kon (or) Ta Khnein village in Kyonedoe Township. They have to finish the road by the end of March 2016. This road goes across [20 villages] which are T’Ya Na village, Kaw Hto Kaw P’Naw village, Shwe Wa Khyan village, Kyaik Htaw village, Nyaung Kon village, M’Yan Kon village, Ye Tha Na village, Pa Thein village, Taung Thu Kon village, Taung K’Lay village, Shwe Mo village, Nga Pel Khyan village, Taung Na village, Noh Aauk village, Bu Ya Ngok To village, Kyo Kwel village, Hlwa Sin Kon village and Bu Ya Kon village. A highway bus station will be built in Bu Ya Kon. There is a stone crusher machine in Kyo Kwel village to lay down flat stones on the road.
Since 2013, U Thu Taw who runs a private business company [the group that mined stone from Atayan rocky mountain] has made money from selling stone. Because of mining stone, some of the lands were spoiled. The villagers reported it to [Burma/Myanmar government level authorities and local] organisations who have accountability, but no one took any action. According to an unknown administrator, government authorities in Naypyidaw already gave permission to U Thu Taw regarding mining stone on Atayan rocky mountain; so, nobody [within the community] can shut it down.
Many stone mining companies have been doing stone mining on Atayan rocky mountain up until now. The following companies [are doing stone mining from Atayan rocky mountain] as mentioned below:
U Pay Aung (private company)
U Thu Taw (private company but it is led by Battalion Commander Saw P’Lu from BGF Battalion #1021)
Mann Myin Naing (private company)
Mann S’Kin Sein (this company is still mining stone but Soe Ya Za Company has not mined stone yet)
Currently many private companies are [also] mining stone from Mu Soe Ma mountain near to Atayan rocky mountain. They are:
Mann Mein L’Than (private company)
U Win Ko (private company)
No one has heard about any problems made by these two private companies, but they have to pay tax [from stone mining]. People who collect the tax money are as mentioned below:
KNU (300,000 kyat) [US $218.02]
The Burma/Myanmar government (300,000 kyat) [US $218.02]
The Burma/Myanmar government police (200,000 kyat) [US $145.35]
Operation Commander from Military Operation Command #19 in Kyainseikgyi Township (100,000 kyat) [US $72.67]
“We [companies] have to pay tax once a year.” said Mann S’Kin Sein, who owns a private company.
This Atayan rocky mountain is connected to people who live in M’Yan Kon village, Bu Ya Kon village, Hlwa Sin Kon village and Kyo Kwel village because they earn their living from agriculture, cultivation and farming. So they gather together and they go to worship and pray at Atayan rocky mountain in order to have a good harvest when they celebrate their traditional festival once a year, as they firmly believe.
People who worship and pray at the place near to the mountain are from [12 villages] which are M’Yan Kon village, Chaung Nit Khwart village, Yay Pu Tha Yat Kon village, Yay Pu Kaw Sat village, Bu Ya Kon village, Hlwa Sin Kon village, Kyo Kwel village, Noh Auak village, Taung Na village, Tan Ta Oo village, Nga Pel Chaung village and Nga Pu Ain village.
The villagers said they would be happy if anyone could shut it [stone mining] down. Otherwise, [the spirit of] Atayan rocky mountain will cry.
Regarding land grants, there are two different types of land grants from the Burma/Myanmar government and the KNU government. So there is a difference between the Right to Act, granted by the Burma/Myanmar government, and the Right to Possess, granted by the KNU government. Therefore, some local residents want to ask the question which [government] side has effective assurance [guarantees] for their lands? The people in Karen State want the land grant to come from the KNU government as Karen people govern Karen State. The KNU land grant costs 4,500 kyat [US $3.27] but in fact two land grant eyewitnesses have to sign the agreement paper so they also get 1,000 kyat [US $0.72]. Land owners [also] have to pay for the photo fee. [Therefore] the total is 6,500 kyat [US $4.72]. They also have to pay 1,000 kyat [US $0.72] per acre when the land is being measured if they want the land grant guarantee.
In 2014 U Win Naing Shwe, Burma/Myanmar land measurement surveyor in Kawkareik Township, had to measure the land in A--- village, Tha Main Dwut village tract, Kyonedoe Township. So he took a list of the lands and the payments, 3 million kyat [in total] [US $2180.25], for measuring the lands before he measured the lands. He said he would come and measure later but as of 2015 he had not measured any land for land grants yet. Thus, the villagers did not completely trust the land grant [system] from the Burma/Myanmar government. This case became known because the villagers reported it.
Every parent wants their child to have an education. So some people built self-reliant schools [run and funded by the local community] in some villages. Some villagers cooperate to work with the Burma/Myanmar government and people [donors] from Switzerland in order to build a Burma/Myanmar government school.
In some villages, the local people could not build any schools. So they have to apply [submit a request for a school] to the Burma/Myanmar government education officer [through the] Township Education Department. When they apply, they have to make a list of the number of [potential] students and they also have to pay an application fee, 30,000 kyat [US $21.80], but [so far] no one [from the Burma/Myanmar government] has come to build any schools [in those areas].
In the self-reliant schools, there are no school teachers from the Burma/Myanmar government. So the villagers have to hire teachers who are local residents. They have to pay 500,000 kyat [US $363.37] for one teacher per year. They also have to help teachers with their food, such as [giving them] rice, oil, salt and also charcoal [for cooking]. However, the villagers try to help as much as they can, although they have some difficulties.
KED [Karen Education Department] supports self-reliant schools and gives school materials such as pens, pencils, note books, nail cutters, footballs and teacher uniforms. KED also gives them [local teachers] some money to help. Karen language is being taught in self-reliant schools, whereas it is not being taught in Burma/Myanmar government schools.
In January 2015, Daw N Haw Company constructed the road from K’Nyin K’Taik village to Tha Main Dwut crossroads. This new road crosses the place near to the school in B--- village, Win Tha Lwel village tract, Kyonedoe Township. So it affected the children [and they] have difficulty learning in the school. Therefore, the villagers reported this case to Burma/Myanmar government education officer in order to build a new school, but they have not received any reply [information] yet. Some parents said the school has to relocate in the following year, 2016, so it will need a lot of school aid [funding].
Being healthy is the most important need for people. There are some local clinics [run and funded by Burma/Myanmar government] in some villages, [set up] after some local residents reported [their need] to the Burma/Myanmar government. After celebrating the clinic opening ceremony, there is now not enough medical doctors in the clinic, so sometimes local mid-wives have to come to the clinic. If the patients have a serious disease, they are sent to the hospital.
Sometimes [during the reporting period] a Mother and Child Protection Group from the Burma/Myanmar government went to the clinic to give injections for women and children, in order to protect them from polio.
[Regarding the] KNU side, they also came to the clinic to give the people vaccinations in order to avoid malaria. They also went to other villages which have no clinics. The [local] people suffer mostly from malaria, body pain, high blood pressure, itchy skin and stomach pain.
Burma/Myanmar government and the BGF
After the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement] was signed in 2015, the Burma/Myanmar government army forces [Tatmadaw] did not run any militarisation [activities] in our area but the BGF did. There are some [BGF] soldiers who do not wear their soldier uniforms in some villages near to Burma/Myanmar government police stations [therefore, they are still active]. Also, some village tract leaders who have been selected by the Burma/Myanmar government had to regularly go to meetings [at the] Township administration office, once a month. They had to report about the situation of the village and they had to manage everything that they were asked to do by the Township administrator.
KNDO [Karen National Defence Organisation] Battalion #6 and the KNU are able to work together now in KNU-controlled areas. If they [KNDO and KNU] celebrate significant Karen days such as Karen New Year’s Day and Karen Martyrs’ Day, they both discuss about how to work with each other. They have already formed KYO [Karen Youth Organisation] and KWO [Karen Women Organisation]. In addition, they might even discuss with civilians about the political situation during the peace process.
In DKBA-controlled areas, Battalion Commander Aung Yin and Battalion Deputy Commander Hto Doh from DKBA Battalion #901 who are now based in A’Lel Kyun have not done anything special but they do collect tax on gardens, sawmills, rice mills, phone shops, irrigation canals, fishing nets and charcoal mounds. It seemed they did not do anything to bring benefit for the civilians.
Battalion Commander Ye Maw from KPC Battalion #776 and Battalion Deputy Commander Saw Zaw Tin from KPC Company #5 are based in Aon Nit Pin village. Company Commander Ya Th’Waw from KPC Battalion #908 is based in Pa Ky village. Company Commander Saw Paw Aaw Yaw from Battalion #909, KPC headquarter Officer Kyaw Win and KPC headquarter Detective Hsa K’Lein did not do any work related to benefitting civilians but they did not collect tax from the civilians. They just stay in their places; they do not have any special office. If emergencies happen, they just go to their headquarters, which are based in Htoh Kaw Koh.
I would to like to say that the people in some villages just have a lack of access to education, healthcare and social support. Also, people have lost their lands and farm plots because of road construction, [and] they did not even get any compensation. In addition, more and more people sell and buy drugs, therefore, it badly affects a lot of young people—their behaviour becomes worse and worse.