Ongoing fighting, displacement, landmines, porter demands, and child recruitment in Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa-an District, October and November 2017


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Ongoing fighting, displacement, landmines, porter demands, and child recruitment in Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa-an District, October and November 2017

Published date:
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

This News Bulletin describes ongoing fighting, displacement, landmines, porter demands and child recruitment in Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa-an District between October and November 2017.

  • In the second week of October 2017, fighting broke out between the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA splinter group) and the joint forces of the Border Guard Force (BGF) and the Tatmadaw in Hlaingbwe Township. Skirmishes continued throughout October and November 2017.
  • Villagers had remained displaced from the area since initial fighting between BGF/Tatmadaw and DKBA splinter group in September and October 2016. When returning briefly to his village in Meh Th’Waw area in May and June 2017, an unnamed male teenager was arrested by the DKBA splinter group and forced to serve as a soldier despite being underage.
  • BGF Battalions #1013 and #1014 demanded villagers from Kwee Law Ploh, Meh Th’Moo, Kler Day, Yaw Poh, and Kloo Htaw village tracts, in Hlaingbwe Township to serve as porters and guards in October 2017. This was very dangerous for villagers due to the presence of landmines in the area and the risk of DKBA splinter group attack.[1]


[1] This News Bulletin was written by KHRG office staff and is based on information from a community member from Hpapun District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor local human rights conditions. It summarises information from two incident reports and one situation update received by KHRG in June 2017. In order to increase the transparency of KHRG methodology and more directly communicate the experiences and perspectives of villagers in southeast 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.
[2] The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) was re-formed on January 16th 2016 as a splinter group from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (2010 – present), and is also referred to as Na Ma Kya (‘Deaf Ear’). During fighting between the Tatmadaw and DKBA Benevolent throughout 2015, there was internal disagreement within the DKBA Benevolent which resulted in a number of commanders being dismissed in July 2015. These former commanders then issued a statement in January 2016 declaring the formation of a new splinter group. This organisation has phrased the formation of this group as the revival of the original Democratic Karen Buddhist Army which was formed in 1994 until it was broken up in 2010 into the BGF and the still-active DKBA Benevolent. The group is led by General Saw Kyaw Thet, Chief of Staff and General Saw Taing Shwe aka Bo Bi, Vice Chief of Staff. Other lower ranking commanders in the DKBA Buddhist splinter group are San Aung and late Kyaw Moh aka Na Ma Kya (reportedly killed on August 26th 2016). The group is currently based in Myaing Gyi Ngu area in Hlaing Bwe Township, Karen State. This DKBA Buddhist (2016 – present) should not be confused with the DKBA Benevolent (2010 – present) from which it broke away in January 2016, or with the original DKBA (1994 – 2010) which was broken up in 2010 into the BGF and the DKBA Benevolent. Importantly, the DKBA Buddhist has not signed the preliminary or nationwide ceasefire with the Myanmar government whereas the DKBA Benevolent has signed both agreements.
[3] 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.

[4] This information was taken from “Recent fighting between newly-reformed DKBA and joint forces of BGF and Tatmadaw soldiers led more than six thousand Karen villagers to flee in Hpa-an District, September 2016”, KHRG, December 2016.

[6]A village tract is an administrative unit of between five and 20 villages in a local area, often centred on a large village.
[7] San Aung (Bo San Aung) Tactical Commander General Saw San Aung is a low-ranking but widely known commander of the DKBA (Buddhist) splinter group which was formed from a breakaway group of DKBA (Benevolent) in January 2016 in Hpa-an District. Prior to the formation of the DKBA (Benevolent) splinter group, Bo San Aung had been twice dismissed from DKBA (Benevolent) for his conduct.  See, “DKBA sacks Brigadier General Saw Kyaw Thet and Colonel Saw San Aung,” Mizzima, July 2015. DKBA (Benevolent) splinter group have been active in fighting in the Hpa-an District, see "Recent fighting between newly-reformed DKBA and joint forces of BGF and Tatmadaw soldiers led more than six thousand Karen villagers to flee in Hpa-an District, September 2016,".
[8] KHRG continues to receive reports discussing abuses involving BGF Battalion #1013 and #1014, including: “BGF Battalion #1014 demands forced labour, asserts heavily militarised presence in villages in Hpapun District, June 2015,” KHRG, December 2015; Hpapun Incident Report: Villager killed by Border Guard Force (BGF) Battalion #1013 in Bu Tho Township, March 2015,” KHRG, September 2015; “Human rights violations by Border Guard Force (BGF) Battalion #1014 in Bu Tho Township, Hpapun District, May 2012 to March 2014,” KHRG, July 2015 and “Hpapun Field Report: Killing, violent abuse, landmine incident, military activity, forced labour, displacement, and poor health and education make villagers feel insecure, January to December 2015,” KHRG, December 2016. Further reports detailing abuses involving these battalions are also available on the KHRG website.
[9] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the December 7th 2017 official market rate of 1,362 kyat to US $1.
[10] On October 15th 2015, after a negotiation process marred with controversy over the notable non-inclusion of several ethnic armed groups and on-going conflicts in ethnic regions, a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was signed between the Burma/Myanmar government and eight of the fifteen ethnic armed groups originally invited to the negotiation table, including the KNU, see “Myanmar signs ceasefire with eight armed groups,” Reuters, October 15th 2015. Despite the signing of the NCA prompting a positive response from the international community, see “Myanmar: UN chief welcomes ‘milestone’ signing of ceasefire agreement,” UN News Centre, October 15th 2015, KNU Chairman General Saw Mutu Say Poe’s decision to sign has been met with strong opposition from other members of the Karen armed resistance and civil society groups alike, who believe the decision to be undemocratic and the NCA itself to be a superficial agreement that risks undermining a genuine peace process, see “Without Real Political Roadmap, Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Leads Nowhere...,” Karen News, September 1st 2015. The signing of the NCA followed the January 12th 2012 preliminary ceasefire agreement between the KNU and Burma/Myanmar government in Hpa-an. For KHRG's analysis of changes in human rights conditions since the preliminary ceasefire, see Truce or Transition? Trends in human rights abuse and local response since the 2012 ceasefire, KHRG, May 2014.