Situation Update | Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District (November 2016 to January 2017)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in January 2017. 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, four interviews and 80 photographs.
Between November 11th  and January 12th , there were more military activities than in 2014-2015 and in the previous month, October 2016. Many armed groups exist because their views do not overlap. There were, at times, conflicts which cropped up between them as they [each armed group] have their own ideas about what they are doing. Especially [Tactical Commander General] Bo San Aung of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army [DKBA splinter group], who undertook military activities on November 11th 2016 and this initiated conflict which has been prolonged to become a constant conflict until now. Tatmadaw sent more troops to the area between Kyeikdon Town and Per Kler village. During this time, they not only sent more rations but sometimes they asked for Loh Ah Pay from the villagers [to carry these rations]. On January 8th and 9th 2017, Tatmadaw Battalions #283 and #32 sent food/rations such as rice, oil, fish cans, and beef cans. They asked for help from villagers who are from nearby villages, particularly Kwee Kler, Kwee Lay, Htoe Lwee Wah, and Mae T’ Raw Hta. One person from each household had to carry the ration packages to the military base camp. Village leader U Maung assembled and announced to the villagers that they must volunteer [to do Loh Ah Pay] and go to the army camp; otherwise, they would be charged [fined] 200 Baht [US$5.97] per household by the village head. Some people tried to come but some were busy so they just paid the fine.
From January 5th to 7th 2017, Tatmadaw Army, DKBA (Democratic Karen Benevolent Army), KNLA (Karen National Liberation Army), and BGF (Border Guard Force) collaboratively investigated [about the areas thought to be contaminated by] landmines along the [Thai/Myanmar] border areas. [This was] in order to free villagers from landmine injuries [in the future], [and to ensure] easier travelling and transportation around those areas.
On November 16th 2016, when a villager named Saw Hpa Bee went to his hill farmland, a landmine exploded and he has not been seen since [presumed dead]. Saw Hpa Bee has three family members. About ten days after this landmine explosion and Saw Hpa Bee’s disappearance, another landmine exploded again in the same area where Saw Hpa Bee had disappeared. Following this, in the area where Saw Hpa Bee used to go, a third landmine was found. According to authorised persons [leaders], it is understood these were planted by Bo San Aung [DKBA splinter group under the command of Bo San Aung]. The place where Saw Hpa Bee disappeared is called Baw Ner Hta hill. [Moreover] Thai solders found additional [non-active] landmines among pumpkin plants in Per Kler, on the Thai side [of the border], on December 8th 2016. They were found in one white bag which was half-full with landmines. The landmines were assumed to be from Bo San Aung [DKBA splinter group]. This situation created risks for local villagers who live along the border and work among this area. Therefore, the soldiers who have been assigned to oversee the security along the border area, who include BGF [Border Guard Forces], KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army], and DKBA (Benevolent), have had to increase their military activities [e.g. patrolling], like before [the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement was signed].
We see that the education situation has improved. Despite the system not being the best, the education situation has not returned [regressed] to its old circumstances [which were poor].
Regarding the business situation in Dooplaya District, there has not been any notable change because the sale price of stone has reduced and the situation [market for selling stone] is even worse than in the past. Thus, work opportunities have decreased instead of increased.
We [KHRG community member and villagers] have not seen any notable increase in development activities being conducted yet. However, there was minor development activity in terms of road construction, modifying and extending one road [from P’ Loo to Lay Kay Kaw]. There will be another development project concerning the building [renovation] of houses for IDPs [internally displaced persons]/refugees however, it has not started yet. The buildings exist but there are plans to make them better.
The villagers developed fewer plantations this year because [they knew that] the price of vegetables was low; as a result, the villagers encountered financial problems. Corn plantation owners could not afford to hire workers to pick the corn like they could in the past. By January 12th 2017, the corn harvest had not been completed. The paddy plants also were not fruitful due to paddy destruction [by insects or mice]. This is the current livelihood situation in Dooplaya District.
The situation for healthcare is good. Despite the inefficiency of [some parts of the] healthcare [services that are provided], the situation was not as bad as in the past. There were no serious diseases that the villagers suffered, only common sickness.
Conservation of Nature
A training on conservation of nature was given in Nu Poe Refugee Camp. A project on forestry and conservation of nature will be conducted through awareness training in Dooplaya District, along the Thai-Myanmar border. It is planned to be conducted on March 3rd, 2017. In order to do this, there will be consultations with local leaders and authorities. In particular, the authorities include Forestry Department Officers and district leaders of Dooplaya District. In fact, they had not met with district leaders but planned to approach them [to discuss] whether they would give the permission to start the project. The ones that will meet them include [a] Thailand/Nu Poe [Refugee] Camp leader, one responsible person from Nu Poe Camp, along with other project-related colleagues, to consult with them about contributing to this awareness training regarding the conservation of nature.
With regard to the drug situation in Dooplaya District, since November 2016, local authorities and local leaders have been trying to take responsibility to protect [civilians] against drug use. Despite the fact that they were not able to eradicate all drugs, six drug sellers were arrested. Thus, the situation regarding drug dealing became stable in Kyainseikgyi Township, west part of Kawkareik Township, Kyaikdon Town. [However] there is still more or less the same level of drug use existing in other places. The armed soldiers [from unspecified armed groups] who control [the drug eradication process] have spread more in Kawkareik Township and Kyainseikgyi Township near where the border is.
Nu Poe Refugee Return
On October 16th 2016, the refugees of Nu Poe Refugee Camp started returning to their [designated return] places. One household with two family members had received 16,000 baht [US$478.32] in financial aid from UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and they were sent to Myawaddy [Thai/Myanmar border crossing] [by the UNHCR]. When they arrived to Burma/Myanmar, they received an additional 300,000 kyat [US$219.80] from Burma/Myanmar government and 100,000 kyat [US$73.29] from an emergency relief group [International Committee of the Red Cross]. They were then sent to the place where they proposed [to UNHCR] that they would return to. According to one family that went back to A--- village [in Dooplaya District] on October 18th 2016, they had received support including seven chickens, one pig, three goats, and also including some chicken feed and pig feed. This is all the support that they have accessed. They have not received any other support yet. They are also not sure whether they will be provided with more support in the future or not. Each refugee family has not received the same support; the more family members there are in their family, the more aid they received.
Returnees expressed that they were willing to receive any job opportunities with the help of UNHCR [who could potentially provide information on job opportunities]. Saw B---, one of the family members of a returnee family, reported that he does not have any job to [support] his livelihood. Therefore, if there are any job vacancies that are provided by the government or an NGO [non-governmental organisation], he is interested to apply for any position. He additionally stated that he wants all refugees who have returned to Burma/Myanmar to get the same rights as local people and to be able to cooperate and participate in any role equally. According to Saw B---, “I want any [organisation with] vacancies in Burma/Myanmar to accept [employ] the refugees who have returned”. Therefore, Saw B--- requested the Burma/Myanmar government to provide any job opportunities to the refugees who have returned with the arrangement of UNHCR.