Dooplaya Interview: Saw A---, August 2015

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Published date:
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

This Interview with Saw A--- describes events occurring in Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, prior to and including August 2015, including armed group activities, taxation and a rape case.  

  • Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) collect yearly taxes from villagers such as farm, hill farm, chainsaw, lumber saw and wild yam business tax. Local villagers mentioned that the DKBA tax villagers based on the Karen National Union (KNU) taxation system which they have also been paying. 
  • A DKBA soldier named Nya Kheh, under Company Commander Hsah Noo has been logging trees on a B--- villager's land without paying compensation. He also threatened villagers not to complain about what he does, by saying he would cut more trees if the villagers do so.
  • A woman named Naw C--- was raped by a DKBA soldier named Hpah Ta Roh in July 2015 in Kawkareik Township. After she was raped she was threatened by Hpah Ta Roh not to report the rape to the village head or anyone else therefore the case had not been resolved at the time of the interview.

Interview | Saw A---, (male, 50), B---village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (August 2015)

The following Interview was conducted by a community member trained by KHRG to monitor local human rights conditions. It was conducted in Dooplaya District on August 2015 and is presented below translated exactly as it was received, save for minor edits for clarity and security.[1] This interview was received along with other information from Dooplaya District, including three other interviews, two incident reports, 113 photographs and nine video clips.[2]

 

Ethnicity: Karen

Religion: Buddhist     

Occupation: Farmer

Position: Village head

 

What is your name?

Saw[3] A---.

How old are you?

50 years old.

How about your village? B--- [village]?

Yes.

How about your nationality?

Karen.

Religion?

Buddhist.

Do you have family?

Yes, I do.

What do you do?

I do farming.

Do you have a position of responsibility in the village?

My responsibility in the village is [position censored for security].

How many armed groups are there in your area?

There are five groups: Peace group,[4] BGF [Border Guard Force],[5] DKBA [Democratic Karen Benevolent Army],[6] KNU [Karen National Union] and Burmese [Tatmadaw].

Peace group and BGF are not the same?

No they are not. For example, Hpuh Bo Myat [Bo Myint Win] is in the Peace Group and he doesn’t receive a salary. BGF have salaries.

So what is the name of the group that does not get a salary?

It’s called the Peace Group. 

What is their [official name]?

[Do you mean] Bo[7] Myint Win?

No, like BGF is their [official] name. How about Peace Group?

[The interviewee does not directly answer the question] For the Peace Group, they do not collect tax and they do not have a salary. For the other group [BGF] they have a salary. They receive over 100,000 kyat [US $72.29][8] monthly.

How do they operate in the area [B--- village]?

Similarly to Hpuh Bo Myat [Bo Myint Win]’s Peace Group; they do not collect tax. BGF also do not collect tax as they have a salary and they come and instruct us [give us orders] as well but it is not [like how] you, Tharamu,[9] instruct us [the interviewee is comparing the tone of instructions that they receive from local military groups compared to local teachers]. 

How about other armed groups?

The other armed group is DKBA. For DKBA, they collect yearly taxes such as [for] farm, hill farm, chainsaw, lumber saw, and wild yam business. They tax all those things.

How many wild yam businesses are there here? And how much do they tax for each one?

They tax based on KNU’s taxation system. KNU tax 1,500 [Baht] [US $41.67][10] and they [DKBA] tax 1500 [Baht] [US $41.67], the same as KNU.

1,500 is in Thai Baht?

Yes. They tax the same [tax] standard as KNU.

How do they tax each year?

If KNU tax four bowls [of rice], they [DKBA] tax four bowls as well.[11]

KNU and DKBA, they collect tax at the same time?

DKBA comes first [to collect tax].

DKBA comes first?

Yes.

They collect 4 bowls [of rice] only for themselves?

Not only for themselves. For KNU, we usually collect farm and hill farm taxes. The taxes are in cash, I give [the taxes] to KNU. They [KNU] do not get yearly tax [in crops]. They [DKBA] take all taxes in crops [measured in bowls of rice].

So KNU do not get it [tax in crops]?

No, KNU do not get those [KNU accept cash tax only].

How about hill farm [taxes]?

Hill farm taxes are collected by KNU.

All hill farm and land farm taxes are collected by KNU?

Yes.

For yearly [crops], are they collected by DKBA?

Yes, DKBA take them all.

How about Burmese [Tatmadaw]? Do they live close to here and do they tax the villagers?

For Tatmadaw, they taxed the villagers in the past, not now. They do not tax but sometimes they need things [materials or assistance] and sometimes we tell them to give us a timeline if they need things. Sometimes, they need [materials or assistance] immediately and ask [us] immediately. Some [Tatmadaw soldiers] are abusive and that is a problem for us [villagers] and as a village head.

Do you know the name of the Burmese [Tatmadaw] that usually demand things?

The group [that usually demand things] has gone already.

How often do they rotate [Battalions]?

They do it bi-annually.

So like you said: the DKBA collects only yearly tax and [tax from] wild yam businesses. There are only those two types of taxes.

Yes.

Is there anything else?

In our village, there is the local [justice] system [community members follow the rules]. There is one group to whom the civilians dare not talk. They cut trees and bamboo and villagers dare not complain about them. They cut trees in villagers’ plantations or land. Some villagers save trees for housing and they [the group] cut them. Villagers reported them [for cutting the trees], and they said they were doing it on the orders of the DKBA Company Commander’s son. They [villagers] dare not complain about him [DKBA Company Commander], and it [their complaint] just remains in their hearts.

Who is based in that area?

You mean [from] DKBA?

Yes.

There is Nya Kheh from DKBA.

What is his position?

I don’t know his position. I asked other people and they do not know it either.

Who is Nya Kheh’s commander?

It is Hsah Noo.

Where is Hsah Noo from?

He lives in Ka Mah Hkler [village].

Who is higher ranked than Hsah Noo?

Ba Nyein.

Where is Ba Nyein based?

Hkyeh Pweh [village].

Are they [who cut bamboo and trees] all Ba Nyein’s privates?

Yes.

So, Hsah Noo is higher ranked than [Private] Nya Kheh?

Yes, he is.

How about Hsah Noo’s position?

Company Commander.

You said they [DKBA Company Commander and his privates] cut trees and bamboo on villagers’ plantations and farms?

You mean [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh?

Yes, the one you said earlier.

Yes, it is [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh.

They cut trees in the farms and if the farm owners tell him [to stop], do you think they will?

No, they [villagers] can’t [tell them to stop].

How about the village head? What if the village head tells him [to stop]?

No, they [village head and leaders] can’t.

Why can’t they [stop]?

Because he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] has power. He has guns; how could we tell him [to stop]?

[Villager 2, male]: They [villagers] told him, “Do not cut more [trees], we [villagers] also have to do [logging for housing]”. And he [[DKBA Private Nya Kheh] later came and cut all the trees and asked, “Now, do you still want to say ‘stop cutting trees’?”

To whom was he saying it? Villagers?

Yes, to villagers. The owner [of the trees] told me later that he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] said [threatened] that he would cut more [trees] if the villager keeps saying this. The farm owner told me about it.

So after cutting [all the trees] in the village land he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] was asking [villagers] if the [land] owner was still talking about him cutting trees. Like that?

Yes.

So the land owner said in the beginning, “Do not cut the trees, we also would like to save [trees] for ourselves”. And [after the incident] [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh said [threatened] that he would cut more if the villager kept on complaining. Like that?  

Yes.

So, he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] is good [at doing bad things]?

Yes, he is. The land owner is Saw D---’s son who is married to Naw[12] E---. He told me that [information] during the previous rainy season. He said, “Brother do not to tell [share this information]. I am so afraid of him”. And I replied, “Yes, you might [be afraid] because they have guns. And we have nothing [no weapons] as we are civilians and we have to be afraid of them”. I told him that.

For example, what if we [villagers] report it to his [DKBA] leader directly?

If we report it directly, it would be good if his leader supports us; if not, what will we do?

No, I mean his leader. Like you said earlier, Hsah Noo is his company commander, right?

Yes.

Like Ba Nyein is his battalion commander. For example, if we [villagers] report it to his company commander and battalion commander, would they tell him [to stop]? Such as [telling him] not to go and cut trees in the area. Have you done that before?

No, we dare not say that because it [cutting trees] might be an order from their [DKBA] leaders. We dare not say that, otherwise we will be punished.

[Do] they [DKBA privates] cut trees and bamboo to sell, or for buildings, or for their [army] camp?

To sell them.

Where do they sell them to? 

They sell them to F--- [village] and the lower parts. Because people come [there] and buy [logs] and they sell them.

Is there protected forest[13] here?

Yes, there is.

Do they cut trees in the protected forest as well?

No they don’t, but the protected forest was ruined last year and they switched the protected forest area to here. With the [new] protected forest area here, what I heard recently was a few trucks came and got the logs [that had already been cut] but there are still [cut] logs [remaining]. The green [younger] logs, I am not sure if they will be used for bridge construction. I don’t know about it.

Like you said earlier, they [DKBA privates] cut the trees on a villager’s land. Did they cut trees on other villagers’ land as well?

They cut [trees] anywhere that they wanted to.

Have they been cutting trees for a long time?

It has been one or two years already. He [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] cut [trees] up to Saw G---’s area. Saw G--- [village head] also dared not to complain about them [DKBA]. There are [village] leaders but they dare not complain about him. So he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] cuts [trees] on villagers’ farms and plantations. He cut [trees] in Saw G---’s area but Saw G--- does not dare to complain about him. Saw G--- told me about it and I also dare not complain [to the DKBA].

Saw G--- is the village head [of another village]? 

Yes, he reported to me about it as well.

He [Saw G--- village head] also dared not complain?

No, he dared not.

How about you? Have you ever reported to his [DKBA Private Nya Kheh’s] leader?

No, never. [As] I have seen, village heads do not report [village issues to armed groups] as they do not have power. They [the armed groups] have power and we civilians do not have power so we just keep to ourselves.   

What if it was Kaw Thoo Lei [KNU]? Would you dare to report to their [KNU] leaders?

Kaw Thoo Lei does not request to cut [trees].

I mean for example, if it was Kaw Thoo Lei cutting trees on villagers’ land, would you dare to report this to their leaders?

No, we [would] not dare.

Why?

Because we are afraid it will cause problems for our village. It would cause a problem or conflict for our village leaders to solve it, and it might destroy our village, so we dare not report it.

So you dare not report any of the [armed] groups [if they are logging on village land]?

No.

So, it is all lost [you cannot take action]?

Yes, it is. When my son worked at the bottom of the cliff, collecting logs for his house’s pillars, the current [DKBA] army camp commander’s private went there and he left a pistol gun on the logs. My son came back and told me, [but] we dare not tell them [DKBA] so we did not. I told my son, do not do it anymore [collect logs because the DKBA/Tatmadaw are active there] and just let it be.

Your son, what was he doing?

He was collecting pillars for his house. And he [the DKBA camp commander’s private] asked for tax in the forest [at the bottom of the cliff]. He [DKBA private] secretly took the log pillars.

How much did he ask for each log pillar?

He did not ask [for the tax] yet, and my son came back to me [before the DKBA private returned to the forest]. I went [to the army camp] and told them that, “we civilians have to build houses so do not interrupt [our livelihoods],” like that [spoken softly]. I told the [DKBA] camp commander when he was sitting in my house and he replied, “Yes, I will admonish him”.

[Who will admonish him?] Himself [camp commander] or his private?

His close private.

What is the name of the camp commander?

It is all in the [village] secretary’s note book. I am not able to write so I asked him [the village secretary] to write down [the information] and keep it with him and to tell people if he was asked. After that, he [DKBA Private] does not bother [to log] anymore. Since the camp commander admonished his private, he doesn’t bother [to log] anymore. He doesn’t bother but he asks [money/tax] from people who transport logs. And they give him money, 100 or 200 [kyat] [US $0.07 or $0.14], for buying cheroot and other things. [Villager] Saw H--- transports logs for him [my son]. And Saw H--- said he daren’t transport logs anymore [because DKBA are logging and the camp is nearby], and I told him that he does not need to go anymore. And I also do not want to have an argument with them [armed groups] so I told him [Saw H---] to [finish] transporting [the cut logs only]. Our logs, we have cut them for a long time. I told him [Saw H---] that being an elder [village leader] means we have to live accordingly [by the rules].

So the place where he [Saw H---] gets the logs to transport is [also] close to the Tatmadaw camp?

Yes. The previous [Tatmadaw] group allowed [trees to be cut] for housing. That is why we cut trees. Now, as the group rotated the new group does not allow it.

Like you mentioned, there has been only DKBA who cut trees. How about other groups? Is there any other group that has been involved in cutting trees?

No, no other groups. The other thing is, KNU said that for housing, building monasteries, schools and bridges, it is fine [to cut trees]. And if you sell some logs for [money to buy] nails it is also fine. They told us that when they paid a visit. It is true.

Have the KNU leaders from headquarters ever visited you and explained the meetings [being held for the peace process]?

No.

So, KNU reach this village when they travel across [the State]?

Yes, they do.

When they cross here, did you inform them about the DKBA cutting trees on the villagers’ land against the villagers’ will?

Yes, we did.

What did they [KNU] say?

They [KNU] also cannot tell them [DKBA]. We informed the [KNU] forestry department as well. The superior leaders know about it but they can’t help. When [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh had cut trees and they fell in my farm, I told Kyaw Kler[14] about it. And Kyaw Kler told me: “Tee Dah [young uncle], we are not in the same group so we cannot tell them [to stop]. It will cause problems if we say it, so we daren’t tell him [DKBA]. We will have to put [the issue] aside. There might be someone who can [stop him someday], because it is a community [issue].”

Did he cut too many trees on your land?

Not on my land. The land I cleared - when I had almost finished clearing and had burnt the dry cut vegetation - I [still] had to clean the trees that I cut down. He [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] cut one more tree near the boundary and it fell down in my farm. Actually, we have a traditional belief that it is not good to have [trees fall down on your farm] like that. [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] doesn’t understand. [We villagers] dare not to tell him so [we] have to stay like this. Now, [I] have cleared the tree already. And he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] did it on another person’s farm, and that person told him not to cut more trees. He [farm owner] also wants to use some trees for his own purpose.

[The farm owner] said it to the DKBA [Private] who cut the trees?

No, [yes] to Nya Kheh.

So the farm owner pleaded with the person [DKBA Private] who cut the trees?

Yes. He begged [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh not to cut. And the next morning he [Nya Kheh] came and cut more [trees] than he had before. And he went back and said “Do you still want to tell me [not to cut trees]? I will cut more if you keep saying that”. And he [farm owner] told [Nya Kheh] that he daren’t tell him [to stop] anymore. So yes, you beg him [not to cut the trees] and he responds in a [bad] way so you that will not dare to [tell him not to cut the trees]. You just have to let it be. Other people also stay like that [letting it be]. In Saw I---’s land plot, all the trees have been cut down.

Where does Saw I--- live?

Saw I--- lives in J--- [village]. So on any land where he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] cuts trees, no one dares to open their mouth [to complain].

On how many people’s land?

I don’t know.

The village heads, could you tell me their names?

Many people, including Saw G---, [are village heads] in his land area [where he cuts trees].

How about people here in B--- [village]? How many peoples’ lands did he cut trees on?

Including Saw G--- and Saw I---’s, [lands], there are many people. I can’t remember their names.

You said he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] had also cut [trees] on your land?

I intended to clear the land anyway, in the future. I cleared the land this year and he went there and cut a tree. I did not want to say anything about him cutting trees but it fell into my land and I had to clear it, so I made a statement about it. Not for any other [big] reason, [because] it is not convenient. It was tiring clearing the land and he cut one more tree [that I then had to clear].  

He [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] cuts trees on Saw G--- and Saw I---’s [land]?

Saw K---’s father as well.

What is Saw K---‘s father’s real name?

It is Saw L---. There are many people’s lands that he cut trees on. It also includes Saw M---’s [land].

What is his name?

He is named Saw M---. This is enough.

[This is] not enough, I need to get all the people’s names in the note.

We cannot remember.

[Villager 3, female:] With DKBA soldiers, people dare not say [talk about] them and I also dare not sell [to DKBA soldiers in my shop] anymore. The fear remains.

Why do you dare not to sell anymore?

They come and buy on credit. And you cannot tell them [to repay the credit]. And as you do this for longer and longer, you lose more and more. Would you able to do this?

Are those DKBA [who buy on credit] in the same group as the group who cut the trees?

[Yes,] The same group, they all are under [Battalion Commander] Ba Nyein’s control. [Battalion Commander] Ba Nyein left them [DKBA soldiers] at my house.[15] I have not received money until now. I lost 6000 [baht] [US $166.53][16] there [by having them stay at my house]. When they were at my house, I cooked [for them] for a month. I thought they would give me my money back.

[Villager 2, male:] There are other expenses that I have not mentioned such as MSG, salt and cooking pots. She had to use her own materials. When he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] cut trees on [villager] Saw N---’s land, Saw N--- told him, “I also want [to keep] my trees [for the future], but you come and cut [my trees].” We have no energy [to stop this], he came and cut [trees] on our land and he [Saw N---] got angry and said, “Put the tree back together for me.” And he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] said, “It [the tree that was cut] is not mine, it belongs to others.” He was the one who cut trees.

He [Saw N---] told Hpah[17] Nya Kheh?

He [Saw N---] told [DKBA Private] Hpah Nya Kheh to put the tree back together for him. He, Hpah Nya Kheh, could not put the tree back together and he said it [the tree] is not mine. 

[Villager 1:] He [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] did it on purpose. He was once an ordinary civilian; he was a civilian and he did not listen to the local rules and he just lived in the jungle. He lived in the jungle and he cut the trees on other people’s land and villagers reported it to the KNU and KNU confiscated his logs, marked them and piled them in one place. And [therefore] he got angry.

[DKBA Private] Nya Kheh?

Yes. He was a civilian, he grew up in my hands [under my administration]. He did not live as a villager; he lived separately. He later joined the DKBA and [now] no one dares to complain about him.

Now, his house is around here?

Yes.

Where is his house?

He lives in the jungle near a small pool. I don’t know the name of the place exactly.

He lives with his soldiers there?

He lives with his wife’s brothers.

Not with his other friends?

Yes [also with his friends].

How many [friends]?

He cannot do it [logging] alone. I don’t know the people who he stays with.

Are they not soldiers? 

I don’t think they are soldiers. They are from O--- [village]. Around his compound, there are trees. He does not cut those. 

[Villager 3, female:] In the summer he went back to Noh Poe[18] and brought his many friends [to come and do logging with him].

[Villager 3:] His groups of friends came with him [for logging]. He said it was an order from the [DKBA] leader [Battalion Commander Ba Nyein]. How could we complain as it was an order from their leader? And people [villagers] dare not complain about him anymore.

When [Battalion Commander] Ba Nyein put him [Nya Kheh] in your house in the beginning, he was placed along with how many others [DKBA soldiers]? 

When they first came, they did not do anything. Later on they moved. [The interviewee does not directly answer the question].

How about this month, is he [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] still cutting trees?

Of course, yes.

Always?

Yes. Like now you come and collect information and we report, if they find out that this has been reported, they [DKBA] will think it was reported by [villagers from] B--- [village]. He would know it. I instructed [a few] villagers to go and observe the [protected] forest. They [interviewee points next to him] went around the forest and they came back and told me that they dare not tell them [DKBA] [not to cut trees]. They dare not tell them and I dare not tell them. Also, if problems happen we cannot solve the problems. For you to know more, I will ask him [Villager 4] to tell you more. He [Villager 4] was the one who was observing the forest [situation].

What is his position?

He is a [position censored for security]. He was a [censored for security] and now he is a [position censored for security].

As you observed the place, I would like to know how many trees from the many plots of villagers’ land did he cut? I would [also] like to know the names of the people.

[He cut trees] In Saw G---’s area, P---’s area, and including Saw Q---’s land as well. I went up there [to see those people’s lands]. I did not go further than that. Saw G--- also complained a lot.

Is he [Villager 4] still doing it [observing the logging]?

Yes, but recently he [Villager 4] does not have time as he has been busy. He has to travel a lot.

Have you ever encountered [DKBA Private] Hpah Nya Kheh as you go around to observe the reserve forest or rainforest?

Yes, [I] have encountered [DKBA Private Nya Kheh].

Did you talk to him about cutting trees in the villagers’ land?

[Yes,] He said, “They [villagers] did not pay tax [on their land or trees] so I have to cut them all [down]”. He said he will cut all the trees if they do not pay taxes.

How about the villagers - do they have official documents [for their land]?

Yes.

They have to pay a yearly tax if have the official document right?

Yes. You [villagers] pay [tax] but he still cuts [the trees].

You said earlier that he is cutting [trees] because the villagers did not pay tax?

Yes. People [villagers] pay tax every year but he still cuts them.   

Did you not tell him that the villagers pay tax every year?

I told him already but he did not listen to me. You would not dare to tell him, it will cause problems if you do. When he [Saw A---] asked me to observe the forest, there was [still] the problem [of logging] when I came back. It [logging] is still ongoing.

How did it happen? 

The other people came and confiscated logs and they [DKBA] were cutting the trees.

Which other people come and confiscated the cut logs?

KNU. It was Kaw Ka Paw Moo [from KNU]. There was a big pile of logs. There might have been 30 or 40 logs. He confiscated them all, including my logs, and I did not tell [complain] him anything.

So, it was Kaw Ka Paw Moo?

Yes, it was Kaw Ka Paw Moo. In the past, he was an ordinary villager. He took [confiscated] those [logs] after he joined the forestry [department from KNU].

He took them all?

All.

So, when the trees were first logged, he was a local forestry [official from KNU]? 

Yes, he took them all.

So, in the beginning when the people [both military and villagers] logged the trees they did not inform him?

I don’t know, but people did not cut trees in his area [protected forest]. People cut in the forest and piled them [logs] together there like that. He confiscated them all, including the trees that he cut and the trees that the villagers cut.

Kaw Ka Paw Moo was the one who confiscated the trees?

Yes, [and] there was another [KNU] person as well.

[Villager:] Ghat Pee [is the other KNU person’s name]. Yes, he was also the one, and another one…the one above [higher ranked than] Kaw Ka Paw Moo. I cannot remember his name. He is a big man [and he] usually comes with a car.

He was higher ranked [in the KNU] than Kaw Ka Paw Moo?

Yes. I cannot remember his name.

Maybe the local forestry responsible officers may see it [logging] as in someway not appropriate?

[Villager 3, female:] At that time they [KNU] did not allow [villagers] to cut trees much. He [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] cut more much more than other people, which was not appropriate, so they [KNU] came and confiscated [the logs].

[Villager 2, male:] Yes, it is like that

Who cut the trees?

It was [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh.

[Villager 3, female:] At that time they did not allow trees to be cut. They [KNU] only allowed tree-cutting for housing for households [for small-scale building and repairs]. He [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] cut everything- big or small trees in the area [he cut them all]. For the trees that other villagers logged for housing needs, no one [KNU] confiscated them. He [DKBA Private Nya Kheh] did not log on his own land, he cut trees from around other places. They [KNU authority] did not see it as appropriate so they confiscated his [logs]. 

At that time he had not joined DKBA yet?

No, not yet.

So at that time he was not a DKBA member, yet he cut a lot more trees than others and the [KNU] forestry confiscated his logs? And he joined the DKBA after? 

Yes, it is like that.

And when he became a DKBA member, he came back and took all the logs that he had cut before [which KNU had confiscated], and sold them all?

Yes.

He is a smart guy then [in his own way]?

Yes, he is. Now, he has farming land.

He bought it?

Yes, he bought it [farming land]. He bought a hand tractor as well. In the past, he used to be a herdsman who took care of other villagers’ cows for free.

[Villager 2:] Not only that, he also once used to beg for rice from me in my house [as a monk], and now he doesn’t care about us at all. He lived in Noh Poe in the past. He comes here for work. He also used to borrow my [farm] sprayer. Now, he doesn’t even care [when he sees me].

Has he ever acted abusively and/or angrily in the village?

No, not really.

But he is the kind of person that if people tell him once [to stop what he is doing], he would do double what he was doing [previously]?

Yes, this is true. It is like that, but he has never abusively beaten any civilians. They [DKBA] would be kind when you visit them but their privates do [act abusively sometimes]. One of his privates owes money to a shopkeeper.

Who?

The one [DKBA Private] who [committed] rape. What is his name? [Asking other villager]. He has a debt to pay to the shop and the shop keeper does not dare to ask for it.

Whose shop?

Saw R---’s shop. His debt is one or two hundred [baht] [US $2.77 or $5.55].

Who was the one who bought on credit?

Saw R--- [villager confuses the shop keeper with the perpetrator’s name].

No, I mean the one who bought things on credit?

[DKBA Soldier] Hpah Ta Roh.

You talked about rape earlier. Who did he rape?

[He] raped a woman.[19]

A woman from where?

A woman from S--- village.

You mean the woman who was raped is from S--- [village]? What was their relationship?

I don’t know. He came to me and said, “I did not rape her, I just slept at her house. Why would she say that about me? I am just letting you know.” And he asked me money for buying Birdy [coffee] or other things. I replied that I would have given it to him if I had [money], [but] I do not have money at that time, [and] I will give it to him when I have some. He said it is for buying Birdy. And as I went back to fix my motorbike, he went to the shop and bought [Birdy or food] and said that I [village head] would pay for it later. And when the shop owner asked me, I did not know anything. I told the shop owner, “Sell things carefully, otherwise it is not good for the village head [himself to have to pay for other’s credit]. I don’t know how you could sell things to someone with the understanding that I [village head] will be paying for the debt that he owes you, when I was not with him when he bought things in your shop”.

The one that you mentioned before, what was the name of the woman who was raped?

Her name is Naw C---. She encounters me [sometimes], but she dares not to tell me about it because she was told by him [Hpah Ta Roh] that he would kill both her and the village head if she reported it. So the woman dared not to tell me about it, as she was concerned about problems that he would make. She doesn’t say anything about [the rape] when she encounters me.

S--- village and B--- village are close or far?

They are close.

The woman is from S--- originally, or where?

She is originally from here, B--- [village]. 

Has she been living in S--- for a long time?

Maybe over 10 years.

Has it been a long time since he raped her?

[It was] on 3rd of July [2015].

On 3rd of July?

Yes, it was.

How did you know that she had been raped?

I knew it. He [Hpah Ta Roh] told me. The perpetrator reported it to me [but] I did not know anything about it [so] I was not sure if it was true or not. The woman did not tell me anything. [When] he reported it to me I did not take it so seriously [take the issue further] as he is a soldier and I asked [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh. [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh said he will talk to him [later].[20]

[Nya Kheh said he would] Talk to Hpah Ta Roh, the man that raped the woman?

No, Nya Kheh will ask him [to see it if it is true]. Hpah Ta Roh himself came and told me that. I did not know it [about the rape case] and I was not sure, so I went to [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh. I told Nya Kheh, “Take good care of your members [soldiers]”. It is not good to [become] involved in other families like that. The woman’s husband is away and I do not know her husband. I told Nya Kheh to do things in a clear [honest] way, to show them [DKBA soldiers] the right way. [DKBA Private] Nya Kheh said that he will talk to [DKBA Soldier] Hpah Ta Roh.

Have you ever asked the woman who had been raped to confirm that she was actually raped by Hpah Ta Roh?

I have never asked her. She wouldn’t talk to me when she met me. I also did not talk to her about it when I met her. I thought that she would have talked to me if she needed anything [help] so I did not start to ask her and I did not know that she was scared to report the rape to me. She was told by Hpah Ta Roh not to report it to the village head or village secretary. She has been told [by Hpah Ta Roh] that he would kill everyone [the woman and the village head] if she reported it. So she is concerned about it and did not dare to report it to me.

So Naw C---was told by Hpah Ta Roh not to report the case to anyone. He [Hpah Ta Roh] [said he] will kill everyone including the woman if she reports the case?

Yes.

So that [is why] Naw C--- dared not report to you about it. So how about from others? Have you heard about it from anyone else?

Some people talked to me about it partly-not the [full] story.

Why did they not tell you the whole story? Were they afraid of you reporting that? 

Yes, they are afraid. The one we met there [somewhere] also dares not to talk about it.

Who?

Naw U---.

What did she say?

She said as we said [above]. She stated that she was violently abused and [Hpah Ta Roh] shot her [with his gun] close to her ear [to threaten her]. She told [me] about the story. She also saw what happened.

Did Hpah Ta Roh violently abuse Naw C---?

Yes.

That woman [Naw U---] saw what happened [to Naw C---]?

Yes, she did. They are close [relatives].

Where did it [the rape] take place?

It was in S--- village, wasn’t it? [Asking people around him].

Where did she tell you that?

She told me at a shop.

She told you about the [incident]. In whose house did she see that Naw C--- was violently abused?

It was in Naw V---’s house.

What time was that?

I did not ask her about the time.

[Villager 2:] It should [have] been at seven or eight o’clock.

Was it in the morning time or evening time?

It was in the evening.

In the evening? You said the woman [Naw U---] was there as well?

I don’t know. Maybe she was informed to come?

No, I mean the [woman] that reported the incident.

I think she was there, according to what she told me. [Interviewee asks people around him] I think she was there right?

[Villager:] I don’t know either, I did not ask her about it. According to what she said, she seemed to have seen what happened.

Didn’t you interrogate her?

No, I did not. She could not even interrogate [Hpah Ta Roh] as he was very abusive. He was acting abusively and he was kicking [the house]. [He] damaged [it] and he pointed [his] gun at her [Naw U---]and he threatened to shoot her.

He kicked the house, the house was damaged, and he pointed at her [with his gun] and threatened to shoot her as well?

Yes, he shot close to her at her side. I heard what she [Naw U---] said happened was like that.

How many times did he shoot, [according to] what she told you?

She said it was two times.

[Villager 2:] According to what she said, it was two times. I am not sure, as I did not care much about it.

He started kicking [Naw U---] as soon as he arrived. He [Hpah Ta Roh] said, “Did you say I raped her?” There was another time, where he asked [Naw C---]. He asked [Naw C---], “Did I rape you?”. Yes, she answered. He then kicked her again.

You are a village head. Isn’t Naw C--- your villager?

Yes, she is but they did not tell me about it so how would I know?  

You heard people talking about it and you didn’t interrogate [ask about details of the incident]?

No, I did not have a chance to interrogate her [Naw C---] as I had to go to the farm after hearing her statement [about the incident]. And I could not come back [for days]. When I was on the farm, people did not come and tell me anything about it so I could not help. But there was a time when she met me at Saw W---’s hut. She just smiled at me and I thought that she was fine, as she smiled at me. They did not ask me about [what I did about the incident] and I am also not necessarily obligated to ask. I cannot start asking without people reporting anything to me. I should have started asking her to come to me to interrogate [her] about it as I am responsible [as village head] [but] if I started asking [her about the incident], I would feel like I am looking for incidents [making trouble]. But if I have been informed, I would be obligated to interrogate. So yes, I thought that I shouldn’t have started interrogating her first. If they [villagers] have problems, they should come to me and report it. Isn’t it [like this]? If I start asking people about their problems, it is like I am making trouble for others.

So yes, like you said earlier; Naw C--- did not dare to report to you about the incident as she was threatened by Hpah Ta Roh not to report to the village head or village secretary, and if she did he [Hpah Ta Roh] would kill the village head and the village secretary as well, right? Maybe that is why she daren’t report to you.

Yes, I heard that later. I did not know that she had considered for me [not to get killed by Hpah Ta Roh]. I also did not know about the case [in beginning]. Yes, it was like that. She was worried about me getting killed. So that [is why] she couldn’t report [the incident]. I also cannot go and ask her about the case as she did not report to me. If she had reported to me and told me about what happened, then I would be responsible to ask her [details about the incident]. It is not right for me to start interrogating first.

Does Hpah Ta Roh not have a wife, children or family?

I don’t know.

Like you said earlier; he is in the same group with Hpah Nya Kheh?

Yes. Ghat Noo’s sergeant.

Ghat Noo’s sergeant?

Yes.

So he is a DKBA soldier?

Yes, he is.

So you have never seen his children or wife?

No, never.       

Is he very old?

He should be around 35 or 36 years old.

Where does he live now?

I have no idea.

In the past, did he come often?

Yes, he did. In the past when he was here, I worked together with Pee Dah. He [Hpah Ta Roh] lived in Pee Dah’s [hand] for a [short] period of time. He was a worker that controlled machines and he used to stay with me. At that time, there were six people altogether [who worked for Pee Dah]. He stayed with me for more than ten days or [maybe] half of the month.

What does Pee Dah do?

At that time we did logging and had a bamboo [selling] business. 

Is Pee Dah in the military?

Yes, he is. His position was something like ration officer.

From which military’s side?

DKBA.

So he is DKBA’s ration officer?

He might be a ration officer because his main work was like, if he received the money [from DKBA superiors] he has to send it to soldiers [in the local areas].

You said he [Hpah Ta Roh] was with you for over ten days?

Yes.

At that time, was he [and his behaviour] still fine?

Yes, he was fine but when he took other things [on credit from the shop], I had to pay for him for a few times. And I had to report to Pee Dah about his expenses and we [himself and Pee Dah] cleared his debt. He sometimes lied that he had used money--100 or 500 baht [US $2.77 or $13.89]--to buy petrol and I did not know about it. And Pee Dah told me not to care for him [so much]. So, I did not care for him [so much] and I asked Pee Dah to send him to another territory. I told him [Pee Dah] not to keep bad people around me. So Pee Dah sent him to a lower part [of the village]. He has been replaced by Saw Koo.

Is he [Saw Koo] DKBA as well?

Yes. There is another one as well. I can’t remember his name. He was replaced by those people with whom we had to work. And I sent the logs to the lower part [of the village] and after the business [was complete] they went back to their own place. They did not come back because I cleared the money [that they owed] already.  

Is there any other military group that disrupts the community like this?

No, there is no other group.

Only this group [DKBA]?

Yes. If the rules are given in a clear and just way I could handle that. Now, the rules are given in a different way, this makes it difficult as a village head. If we do [what certain people want], it will become our problem. [For example] there was a time that I was about to get hit by a piece of wood.

Who was going to hit you? 

It was Koo Koo [Saw Koo]. He was the secretary.

Koo Koo [Saw Koo] is [in the] DKBA as well?

Yes. I told him, “You can hit [me] if you want to. It is ok.”

So at that time you were not in the village head position yet?

No, not yet. I was a [village] secretary.

Why did he want to hit you?

He sometimes summoned me and I failed to go and meet him. I told him that, “You are as young as my nephew or my younger brother. You can hit me if you want. It is ok”. I asked him if he was serious and he smiled at me.

Where was it that he was going to hit you with a piece of wood?

He did not hit me, he was just saying. He shouldn’t have said it because I am his elder.

What is Koo Koo [Saw Koo]’s title?

I don’t know. There was a time when he was working with a [DKBA soldiers’] group. I don’t know his position.

Is it ok if we [villagers] don’t pay for the yearly tax that they [DKBA] demand? 

In the beginning I thought that I would not pay and just stay on my own. [It was only] Because Hpuh [Grandpa] said to clear the tax demand that I cleared the demand.

Who was the grandpa that told you to pay [the tax]?

It was Hpuh Wah who told me to clear the tax.

What does Hpuh Wah do?

He is in a high position.

From which side?

He is from Kya In, Noh Ta Kaw Township.

Is he a soldier?

Yes, he is.

Which side?

KNU.

Like you said earlier, a woman was raped, named Naw C---. Is there anyone else that you heard has been raped by Hpah Ta Roh?

There was only one-the one that [I] said.

Is it ok for you if I report all the information that you have reported to KHRG? Is that ok for you?

It will be good for us if you could report it. So that it does not happen anymore.

We have talked a lot this morning. Is there anything that I missed that you want to mention? You can state if you want to.

Not really. There is no interruption from our civilians with the military so far. There is one thing: the civilians must be like civilians and soldiers must be like solders. Right?

Yes.

It shouldn’t be half civilian and half military. It causes confusion for me as a village head. There are some people who mix [civilians who are involved in military affairs].

Those are from B--- [village]?

Yes. It shouldn’t be separate, like soldier, civilian and home guard. Now, [those civilians who are involved in military affairs] you cannot use them [as labourers for village development or loh ah pay]. They would say they are from a peace group, DKBA or etc. That’s difficult for the village head.   

If they are that kind of civilian [who is connected to military] you should know if they are DKBA or [Karen] Peace Group, right?

Of course I do. I know some of them and some [villagers] are not really [members] of armed groups, but they say they are. And recently, when we had a meeting, I told Kyaw Kler[21] to be clear. They [villagers] are involved [with armed groups] and it is difficult. Three villagers recently joined the [military] operation [group]. People asked me about their names and I had to tell them; they are Saw I---, Saw T--- and Saw X---. They also follow Kyaw Kler. They have to be disciplined not to be here like this and here like that [to act like a soldier]. People like them are difficult to discipline. They have to be clear with either their alliance with [military] operations [group] or Kyaw Kler. Some people said they are DKBA but they do not do DKBA [military] work-they do [DKBA] business. For this one I talked to Kyaw Kler already to be clear about this so that it is easy for us to control our civilians as well.

So it is like they [civilians who are involved in military/business] are not useful, and you cannot request [them] to do work [for the village]. They defend themselves by saying they are in the military.

Yes.

How about other things? Other problems?

There are no other problems. The one I was saying was difficult. When you invite them [as village head] to the meeting, they say they cannot participate as they are in the military. They come back [to the village] with camouflage military uniforms.

Who are they?

People who came back from Noh Poe. So some people, we do not know if they are Mr. Black or Mr. White [because they came from outside the village]. The civilians have to accompany them [for military tasks] if they request it. Some people came back and lied that they are in the military and asked civilians to help them.

People from Noh Poe came back and asked the civilians to accompany [guide] them?

Yes.

They wore camouflage military uniform?

Yes.

Do you know their names?

I know some of them. Some people came back drunkenly.

Did they have the logo [badge] on their camouflage military uniform?

Some did, some did not. For some who had the logo we know but for those who don’t, how could we know?

Have you ever asked them which group they belong to?

No, I have not.

What if you have to ask? Would you dare to ask?

It depends, and now like you Tharamu explain more to us [about human rights] it opens up our brain [knowledge]. It will lessen our fear as well. I am a village head and even I still daren’t ask [about the military groups]. If they question why [the village head] or village secretary would question them, it would cause problems for us.

Like the one you mentioned earlier, was it a long time ago that the Noh Poe people came back and asked [villagers to accompany them]?

[That happens] sometimes. 

How about here? Are there people that come back and stay here from Noh Poe?

In my area?

Yes, in your area.

Not around my area. They should be in Paw Paw Wah Luh [mountain].

Is that far from here?

Close.

Close to what village?

Close to Y--- [village].

Yes, right. There are many of them [people from Noh Poe].

There might be 32 households [who came back from Noh Poe]. According to the record there are [number censored for security] households.

So the village is big. When I [KHRG researcher] was there in the past, there were a lot of refugees and people who came back and worked there to build their huts.

Yes.

So now are there any other things that I did not ask that you want to mention?

No.

[To villager 5] What do you want to say? Come closer.

[I want to talk] about freedom. Like, you come and have interviews with the [village elders] but issues keep coming up. We will not have time to talk about them all so I will briefly tell you. [I wish that] everyone will be free of issues like those [mentioned above] peacefully for both parties. I want that [to happen]. I don’t want the case to be solved in a way [that would be] satisfactory only for one party and not for the other one. In the past, the elders, we take them as our parents. We live in the village and they take care of us. And I want to not feel down as I am getting old. I want no family member to feel miserable in the future. For anyone who lives close or far; if they come back [to the village], [I want them to] come back with good behavior and live accordingly in good ways. For those problems to be solved, I request Tharamu not for my voice to be lost but [for my voice] to become the thing that everyone can see [in this report], so that we can make a change in our generation. [One day] I will to be gone from the earth. I want [the situation to be] like that [peaceful] but if we think of the things that have been done, we will think about the future [we will learn from our experience]. Like you Tharamu, we take you as our Sayama [female teacher] so that [is why] we are having this conversation. We consider you as a respected person so that [is why we talk to you]. So in order to have these issues gone, what should we do? I personally think it will be solved. I requested recently to have those issues solved. But I will do [my best] to have a great solution and ensure there is satisfaction between both parties.

Let me give you an example; in order to have a house built, we need strengths from you Tharamu, superior leaders and the household members in the house. And the house should be for everyone. The leaders need to help jointly so that [villagers] act in the right way. Like I said; I [have] said this and I will act like this. I talk with the promise [of action]. If I said this and did not act like this, it is like I am lying to my leaders, Tharamu and to my own brothers and the heavenly son [of God]. You should understand that [promise] in order to have [what I am wishing] implemented.    

All the things that we talked about, I am not making any decisions for them. I am just collecting information that [was] reported by people, and I report it to the headquarter leaders and they will analyse and make decisions [later] for future improvements. They have their plans and goals to improve these things. It is in their hands.

For the village heads, like our leaders, the problems here, that we face here, they [KNU leaders] can’t see them. [The KNU leaders can’t see the] types of problems for families, children, friends and siblings, like we described before. Problems happen a lot but our leaders from a distance do not know. We can share those things among our brothers only. We know about those things that we faced as our elders [village leaders] mentioned before. If things happened like that we cannot say who is wrong or who is right. If it is right, both parties are right. If it is wrong, both parties are wrong. It is like this. In order to have those problems solved [in the right way], there should be mutual satisfaction with both parties. That’s it.

Thanks for reporting to us like this. How about other things that you want to mention?

There are no other things. There are only those things [that were mentioned earlier] and if those things are solved, the situation will change for our future generation. We like a lot of our people from far to come back [to stay] because we are from the same blood, solid [strong] for all Karen people. If they come back, they should follow the rules. They should have a place to stay so that they can have peace. The leaders also will have peace and no more troubles for anyone. If we keep staying like [before], the [village] leaders will feel miserable every day. It is like this. I have seen it as I have been with them so I know. In order to have the things that we reported solved Tharamu [you] are responsible to get it passed to people with responsibility quickly. If we do not report these issues our children [Karen people] will separate across many places. Now, we do not have much time, I would like this to be done at the moment that we are talking about currently, it is late already. I would like it to be done quickly [in the near future].

[Villager 6:] Like my brother said, it is right. If they [villagers from Noh Poe] come back, they should inform the village leader and they should stay under the control of the [village] leader. Now, they come back and they just keep to themselves and stay in the jungle. And when they face disease or health problems, they come to the village head and the village head has no idea what to do. And if people [villagers] lose something, they might think it was [stolen by] them. Like my brother said, it is not good to go and tell them. We should know that and you Tharamu have to help us with that.

[Villager 5:] We do not want the leaders to feel miserable about the villagers. I think a lot about that issue. I have seen it and I don’t want to see it anymore in the future [and] in my lifetime. I will stand firmly before friends and brothers with no fear. So that [my stance] benefits others as well as the leaders. I don’t want the leaders to feel miserable like that, [I want them to] come back and stay peacefully. Do not fear anything. I will take care of those [for not having fear]. We are all Karen right? DKBA are also Karen. In order to have it [a peaceful life] in the right way let us be an example [for the current generation] so that our brothers and leaders will take this example. Our leaders are also our great parents. We should have love, mercy and trust. Trust is the most important. I have to trust Tharamu and I have to take her as a great [person]. I am so happy that you paid a visit here like this. I hope Tharamu will find the direction that we all can reach to a common agreed goal. For example, if you have found the way but you dare not to go, I will go [for you]. I am brave enough for all for the people [villagers] engaging with leaders or anything for the people. We need a way to be safe from those things. That’s it. I am seriously begging, do not let these [voices] just be gone.

They will not be gone. I will be sending it to the superior leaders later on. They will take care of these [interviews]. As I am a researcher, I am responsible to collect information and I am responsible to send it to them as well, so that it is what I am doing. Thanks for reporting information this morning. Thanks a lot.        

Footnotes

[1] KHRG trains community members in southeastern 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 southeastern 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] This Peace Group is a local militia group.

[5] 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.

[6] The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA Benevolent) was formed in 2010 as a breakaway group following the transformation of the majority of the original Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (1994 – 2010) into Border Guard Forces (BGF). This group was originally called the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army until it changed its name to the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army in April 2012 in order to reflect its secularity. This group is comprised of different divisions, including Klo Htoo Baw Battalion and DKBA-5, and was led for many years by General Saw Lah Pwe aka Na Khan Mway who died in March 2016 and was replaced by General Saw Mo Shay in April 2016. The DKBA (Benevolent) signed a preliminary ceasefire with the Burma/Myanmar Government on November 3rd 2011 and then signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) on October 15th 2015. The group is based in Son Si Myaing area, Myawaddy/Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, southern Kayin State. This DKBA (Benevolent) (2010 – present) should not be confused with, either the original DKBA (Buddhist) (1994-2010) which was transformed into the BGF in 2010, or with the DKBA (Buddhist) (2016 – present) which was formed in 2016 as a splinter group of the DKBA (Benevolent). Importantly, the DKBA (Benevolent) has signed both the preliminary and nationwide ceasefire agreements with the Burma/Myanmar government, whereas the DKBA (Buddhist) has not signed either agreement.

[7] Bo is a Burmese title for a military general.

[8] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the 20th December 2016 official market rate of 1383 kyat to US $1.

[9] Thara/Tharamu is the Karen term used for any teacher, pastor, or any person to whom one wishes to show respect

[10] All conversion estimates for the baht in this report are based on the 20th December 2016 official market rate of 35.99 baht to US $1.

[11] The interviewee switches between discussing tax which is paid in cash and tax which is paid with rice, both of which are requested as forms of payment according to the activity being taxed.

[12] Naw is a S’gaw Karen female honorific title used before a person’s name.

[13] A protected or reserved forest are in Myanmar is an area identified as being of environmental or ecological importance and therefore hunting, fishing, extraction of natural resources and logging are limited or prohibited. For more information see Kaw Thoo Lei Forest Policy.

[14] KHRG is in the process of following up on this man’s position and affiliation to the KNU or another group.

[15] Villagers are sometimes made to host soldiers who are active in their village area.

[16] All conversion estimates for the Baht in this report are based on the 21st December 2016 official market rate of 36.03 Baht to US $1,

[17] Hpah is an informal S’gaw Karen title used for men, which appears before the person’s name.

[18] Noh Poe is the name for both the refugee camp on the Thai side of the Thailand/Burma border and the village on the Burma/Myanmar side of the border in Dooplaya District.

[19] For the full interview with Naw C---, see “Dooplaya Interview, Naw A---, July 2015,” KHRG, February 2016.

[20] For further details on the barriers for women accessing justice after rape and gender-based violence see Chapter VI: Gender-based Violence of “Hidden Strengths, Hidden Struggles: Women’s Testimonies from southeast Myanmar,” KHRG, August 2016.

[21] KHRG is in the process of following up on the position of this actor.