Situation Update | K’Ser Doh Township, Mergui-Tavoy District (January 2017)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in January 2017. It was written by a community member in Mergui-Tavoy 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.
Villagers from K’Ser Doh [Thayatchaung] Township live in villages in the mountains, on the plains and along the beach. Mostly, the villagers work on hill farms and plain farms, but some also work on plantations, such as betel nut plantations, coconut plantations, durian plantations, cashew plantations and rubber plantations.
In 2016 the weather was [unfavorable because there were] high temperatures when the betel nut trees were flowering and giving fruit. Therefore, the betel nut flowers were dry and the immature betel nut turned yellow [died], and then the betel nut trees could not produce fruit.
It did not rain in the rainy season and it was too hot, so villagers could not plant paddy because the young paddy plants would not grow. Some villagers planted the paddy, which was then eaten [by insects], and could not grow. Then it rained during the harvest in the winter, so villagers could not reap [harvest] their paddy because the mature paddy had regrown [due to the rain]. Therefore, villagers are concerned about their livelihood and [how they will] support their children’s education in 2017 [due to their livelihood insecurities].
In 2010 the East Star Company started conducting coal mining on the lands of Saw B---, Saw C---, Saw D---, and Saw E--- in A--- village, Paw Klo [area], K’Ser Doh Township. We know that the Tatmadaw gave them permission [for coal mining] before the 2012 preliminary ceasefire agreement, when the villagers were afraid [of Tatmadaw] and they did not dare to assert their agency. The company did not hold a consultation meeting with any area leaders, village leaders or land owners. After the KNU leaders heard the news [of the coal mining], they investigated this case and then they [East Star Company] told the KNU leaders that they had informed the village leaders and the lands’ owners. At that time, the KNU leaders did not dare to meet with the company and they did not dare to cooperate with the villagers closely, because the [Burma/Myanmar government] had not signed the [preliminary] ceasefire agreement [with the KNU] yet.
Later on, the East Star Company asked permission from the KNU leaders to conduct coal prospecting [in Paw Klo area] and then the KNU leaders gave them permission. However, they conducted coal mining instead of prospecting. In 2011, they [the company leaders] gave 20,000 baht [US $585.65] compensation [to the land owners] so they could be seen to have acted correctly. This [20,000 baht compensation] was not fair as it did not meet the cost of the lands. They [land owners] continually asked for the total amount [compensation] of their destroyed lands, but they have not gotten it yet.
Then the Mayflower Mining Company replaced the East Star Company, which is also a Thai company. Village leaders and villagers [in Paw Klo area] had a meeting and tried to stop this project, but [the Mayflower] company leaders came to [the meeting] with Htoo Ler, a Tatmadaw Base commander, and told the villagers that the KNU leaders had given them permission [for coal mining]. When the villagers went to the KNU leaders, the KNU leaders told them that the Tatmadaw army gave the permission and sold [this land] to the [Mayflower] company. Therefore, the leaders from both sides [Burma/Myanmar government and KNU government] are untrustworthy, which was said by a villager: “They [Burma/Myanmar government and KNU government] are the same”. Now the [Karen] nation [civilians] has less faith in the KNU and they will participate less with the KNU in the future [which will negatively affect the KNU].
In 2016, local leaders requested that the [Burma/Myanmar government] allow the students in Karen schools, in Mergui-Tavoy District, to wear Karen clothes one day per week and to study the Karen language during the school day, not in extra classes. The [Burma/Myanmar government] township leaders in Mergui-Tavoy, such as Thayatchaung Township, Dawei Township and May Ta Town leaders, do not run the same [schooling system]. Some of them allow the students to wear Karen clothes and study Karen, but some of them do not allow it. Some of them allow the students to study the Karen language in school time, while some of them only allow the students to study the Karen language in extra classes [outside of school hours]. Therefore, this makes the civilians [in Mergui-Tavoy] dissatisfied. They [local leaders] requested permission [to wear Karen clothes and study the Karen language at school] from the [Burma/Myanmar government] schools principals, Township education administrators and District administrators, but those leaders replied that “We cannot allow you to practice it [your own culture] without permission from Naypyidaw”. Some of them allowed [the local students to practice their culture] without public permission from Naypyidaw, so the civilians did not dare to practice [their culture openly]. Therefore, the local students do not want to practice their language or wear the clothes [practice their culture] as much as before.
In February 1997 the Tatmadaw army attacked Mergui-Tavoy District, Brigade #4. The Tatmadaw army forced the villagers from F--- village, G--- village, H--- village and I--- village, K’Ser Doh Township to move beside the road, which is in another village’s area. The displaced villagers cleaned the vegetation, such as bamboo and trees, and then they built their houses. Right now, some of the displaced people have returned to their own [original] villages, but some of them have not gone back because they have already built good houses, as well as a school and a church. The landowners have not gotten any compensation for their land [where the displaced people live] and [the authority] cannot solve this problem yet.
The Burma/Myanmar Government Education Department does not allow local teachers to teach if they have not completed its teachers training, or obtained its Standard Ten certificate. Also, local people cannot open up a new school if they do not have enough students, because the Burma/Myanmar government has set a minimum number that schools should have. Therefore, it is difficult for [the displaced people to return to their original village and set up a school]. The villagers reported that, “The former Burma/Myanmar government and the current Burma/Myanmar government are not the same, because the current Burma/Myanmar government cannot [will not] solve the problems that the former government created”. Consequently, there is no development in this area [Mergui-Tavoy District].