Toungoo Interview: Saw A---, February 2017

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Toungoo Interview: Saw A---, February 2017

Published date:
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

This interview with Saw A--- describes events occurring in Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District in February 2017, including education, healthcare, land issues, logging and armed groups activities.

  • Saw A--- stated that no clinic has yet been built in B--- village, Min Lan Ywar village tract, Leik Tho Town, Thandaunggyi Township. Therefore, B--- villagers have to go to the hospital in town to get medical treatment when they are sick. Villagers cannot receive medical treatment if they do not have enough money to pay the medical fees.
  • According to Saw A---, the EFI company is planning to confiscate 3,000 acres of villagers’ land in Min Lan Ywar village tract, Leik Tho Town, Thandaunggyi Township in order to grow commercial plantations. However, although villagers want to protect their ancestral land from land confiscation, they lack the necessary knowledge of land policy.
  • Saw A--- stated that Aye Chan Yay A’pweh and Nyein Chan Yay A’pweh (two armed Thandaung peace groups) gave permission to wealthy individuals but not to villagers to conduct logging in Thandaunggyi Township. If villagers want to conduct logging, they have to bribe Aye Chan Yay A’pweh and Nyein Chan Yay A’pweh.

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] Keh Bah Karen is a Karen sub-ethnic group which resides in southeast Burma/Myanmar, Toungoo District in the vicinity of Thandaung Town in the Special Area of Leik Tho and Ya Tho. This sub-ethnic Karen group has their own language and culture. Most Keh Bah Karen are animist.

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

[5] 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 Standard 6 to Standard 9, and upper secondary school is Standard 10 to Standard 11.

[6] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the 26 September 2017 official market rate of 1365 kyat to US $1.

[7] It is unclear whether this refers to an official organisation or health workers group that works on malaria issues or if this is a health worker group working with the Burmese government.

[8] Land form #7 is the land grant required to work on a particular area of land. In Burma/Myanmar, all land is ultimately owned by the government.

[9] Land Form #105 is a non-permanent holding register, and is the first step towards securing full tenure rights. After securing this initial form, land must be cultivated continuously for three years without being left fallow. If the tenure holder has a strong enough relationship with the Settlements and Land Records Department (SLRD), they can then secure a Form 106, which acts as a permanent holding register; see Burma’s Environment: People, Problems, Policies, BEWG, 2011, p. 39.

[10] The perpetrator of this abuse may have been claiming authority under one of the Burma/Myanmar government laws that allows rights to land to be transferred from villagers to private entities. The Wasteland Instructions Law (1991) enabled both domestic and foreign investment in large-scale commercial enterprises through transfer of use rights to designated "wasteland" (or "vacant, fallow and virgin land"). This practice was recently reaffirmed by the Vacant, Fallow, Virgin Land Law (2012). As development has increased in southeast Burma/Myanmar since the signing of the government-KNU ceasefire in January 2012, KHRG received an increasing number of complaints of confiscation of "uncultivated land" or "wasteland." For KHRG documentation of land confiscation arising from development projects, see “‘With only our voices, what can we do?’: Land confiscation and local response in southeast Myanmar,” KHRG, June 2015, as well as,  “Losing Ground: Land conflicts and collective action in eastern Myanmar,” KHRG, March 2013. For summary and analysis of the legal and policy framework relating to land management in Burma/Myanmar, see: Legal Review of Recently Enacted Farmland Law and Vacant Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law, Food Security Group - Land Core Group, November 2012. 

[11] After further follow up by the KHRG Researcher who conducted this interview, some land has already been confiscated but further confiscation is expected continue.

[12] This is likely to refer to U Win Aung, a prominent Burmese businessman who is the current president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and founder of Dagon International, the construction company that won contracts for construction projects in Naypyidaw. Due to his close ties to the Burmese military, he was placed on the US Sanctions list between 2009 and 2015. For more information on U Win Aung, please see, “‘Crony’ Win Aung Removed From US Blacklist: Who’s Next?”: The Irrawaddy, April 24 2015, and “U Win Aung, President, UMFCCI,”. 

[13] Karen Peace Force (KPF) was formed in February 1997 after splitting from the KNU/KNLA and surrendering to and signing a ceasefire with the Burmese military government. Significant parts of the KPF merged with the Burma/Myanmar government military into Tatmadaw Border Guard Force #1023 whilst others remained independent. The independent (non-Border Guard) KPF controls some administrative areas in addition to road and river checkpoints in the area of Three Pagodas Pass. Following repeated rejections of Burmese government proposals to reform KPF into the Tatmadaw Border Guard, substantial elements have since reformed in the Tatmadaw Border Guard in 2010 while others remain independent.

[14] Aye Chan Yay A’pweh, which translates as ‘Peace Group’, is a government sponsored militia formed in 1998 and consisting of roughly 30 reserve soldiers and significantly less active members. Field reports indicate that the group is led by U Ko Gyi and operates mainly out of a base in the upper region of the Kyaung Haung area in Leik Tho Township, Toungoo District near the Kayah State border. They also have small camps in the Myat Tha Gone, Tat Sel Chaung, Yay Ni and Myauk Lon Chaung areas in Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District. Researchers in the field have stated that they are involved in the rubber, teak and agarwood industry, and have accused them of illegal land confiscations and cases of forced labour. Aye Chan Yay A’pweh should not be confused with Nyein Chan Yay A’pweh, which can also be translated as ‘Peace Group’ but refers to the Karen Peace Army (KPA), aka the Karen Peace Force (KPF), nor Htanay Pyithu Sitt A’pweh, another militia also known as the Thaundaung Peace Group that has been in conflict with Aye Chan Yay A’pweh in Toungoo District. It is also distinct from the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council, which has, on occasion, been referred to as ‘Peace Group’.