Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, June to August 2017

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Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, June to August 2017

Published date:
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

This Situation Update describes events occurring in Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District during the period between June and August 2017, including education, healthcare, villagers’ livelihood, land issues, development and military activity.

  • In Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District, the main educational challenges faced by rural villagers are difficulties in accessing education, low quality of education due to insufficient school materials and a changing examination system, as well as a lack of recognition of KNU schools and limited opportunity to teach Karen language.
  • Villagers in rural areas of Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District faced health challenges due to a lack of health services and medical supplies, insufficient clinics and health workers as well as expensive medical fees.    
  • The main livelihood challenges that rural villagers in Thandaunggyi Township faced are insufficient harvest crops due to climate change and land confiscation by the Bu Yin Naung military school, Thandaung Peace Group, Ministry of Industry No (1), and several business companies including Asia World Company and Kaung Myanmar Aung Company.
  • Villagers were not consulted when development projects were implemented on or near their lands, such as the construction of electrical poles near villagers’ lands by the Ye Thu Ya Company. 
  • The Tatmadaw conducted several military trainings in June and July 2017, that negatively impacted villagers’ plantations and animals, which were damaged or hit by bullets during military training. Civilian trust in the Tatmadaw also decreased due to ongoing land confiscations as well Tatmadaw soldiers not being held accountable for their actions.

Footnotes

[1] KHRG trains community members in southeast 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 writing situation updates, community members are encouraged to summarise recent events, raise issues that they consider to be important, and present their opinions or perspective on abuse and other local dynamics in their area.

[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] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the December 21st official market rate of 1,351 kyat to US $1.

[4] All conversion estimates for the Thai Baht in this report are based on the December 21st official market rate of 32.72 baht to US $1.

[5] Backpack Health Worker Team (BPHWT) is an organisation that provides health care and medical assistance to displaced civilians inside Burma. KHRG reports that cite BPHWT include “Hpa-an Situation Update: Hlaingbwe Township (February to April 2016)” and “Thaton Township, Thaton District (January to June 2015).”

[6] A Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) comprises 500 soldiers. However, most Light Infantry Battalions in the Tatmadaw are under-strength with less than 200 soldiers. Yet up to date information regarding the size of battalions is hard to come by, particularly following the signing of the NCA.  LIBs are primarily used for offensive operations, but they are sometimes used for garrison duties.

[7] Dog fruit, also known as jengkol, is a bean containing sulphur and a mildly toxic amino acid. It is native to Southeast Asia and is commonly eaten with rice and fish paste.

[8] A viss is a unit of weight equivalent to 1.6 kg or 3.52 lb.

[9] In 2014, Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #603 confiscated over 200 acres of villagers’ land without providing any compensation.. See “Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, July 2014,” December 2014.

[10] U is a Burmese title used for elder men, used before their name.

[11] Htanay Phyithu Sitt A’pweh, or ‘Thaundaung Peace Group’, is a local militia located in Toungoo District. The group split from the Karen National Union in 1997 and was initially led by Khe R’Mun. Reports from the field claim that they are currently led by General Bo Than Myin, have around 300 troops stationed at Leik Tho Base (Battalion Commander Bo Kyaw Win), in Leik Tho Township, and an additional 40 soldiers at Pya Sa Khan Base (Battalion Commander Khin Maung Lwin), near Thandaung town. It has been reported that they control a number of different illicit operations, including gambling and black market car licencing.  They are also allegedly employed as security personnel by local companies and wealthy individuals involved in logging and mineral resource extraction, in addition to having direct involvement in the lumber and mineral business. Htanay Phyithu Sitt A’pweh should not be confused with Nyein Chan Yay A’pweh, which is occasionally translated as Peace Group but refers to the Karen Peace Army (KPA), aka the Karen Peace Force (KPF). Nor should it be conflated with Aye Chan Yay, another small militia group also operating in Toungoo District that the Thaundaung Peace Group has come into conflict with. It is also distinct from the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council, which is also sometimes translated as ‘Peace Group’.

[12] KHRG has previously reported on this land confiscation by Bu Yin Naung military school in “Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi and Htantabin townships, November 2015 to January 2016,” KHRG July 2016.

[13] KHRG has previously reported on this military training by Bu Yin Naung military school in “Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, November 2016 to March 2017,” KHRG November 2017.

[14] Asia World is a Burma/Myanmar company with significant investments in the shipping industry, infrastructure, and plantations in Myanmar. It is known within Burma/Myanmar as Shwe Swan In. Asia World and its additional companies owned by Myanmar national Stephen Law were added to the US Sanctions list in July 2016 due to their historic and continued links to the Burma/Myanmar military regime, see “US extends sanctions, further targets Asia World,” Myanmar Times, May 17th 2016. KHRG analysed the impact of Asia World and other private company’s roles in development in Chapter 6: Development, “Foundation of Fear: 25 years of villagers’ voices from southeast Myanmar,” October 2017, KHRG. In KHRG’s operation area of Toungoo District, Asia World constructed a hydroelectric dam resulting in damage to villagers’ land and the relocation of villagers, see “Toungoo Interview: Saw H---, April 2011,” KHRG, September 2012 and continue to develop on land traditionally used by villagers, see “Toungoo Field Report: Slow transitions towards real change, January to December 2015,” January 2017, KHRG. Additionally, in Mergui-Tavoy District, Asia World confiscated villagers’ land for plantations, see “Mergui-Tavoy Situation Update: Ler Muh Lah and Ta Naw Tree Townships, January to June 2015,” KHRG, October 2015.

[15] Kaung Myanmar Aung Company (KMAC) or Kaung Myanmar Aung Group of Companies is a Myanmar-owned business group with investments in teak plantations in Toungoo District, and mining, agriculture, shipping, construction and real estate development within Myanmar. Their chairman is Mr Khin Maung Aye. KMAC have been implicated in land confiscation cases in southeast Myanmar which have included intimidation and threats to villagers who were customary owners of the lands, and launching legal cases against villagers accused of trespassing on the confiscated land. See “Chapter 6: Development, “Foundation of Fear: 25 years of villagers’ voices from southeast Myanmar,” October 2017, KHRG. For an interview with a KMAC day labourer, see “Toungoo Interview: U A---, 2017,” November 2017, KHRG, and for a villager sued for trespassing, “Toungoo Interview: Htantabin Township, November 2015,” June 2017, KHRG.

[16] Military Operations Command (MOC) is comprised of ten battalions for offensive operations. Most MOCs have three Tactical Operations Commands (TOCs) made up of three battalions each.

[17] An Infantry Battalion (Tatmadaw) comprises 500 soldiers. However, most Infantry Battalions in the Tatmadaw are under-strength with less than 200 soldiers. Yet up to date information regarding the size of battalions is hard to come by, particularly following the signing of the NCA.  They are primarily used for garrison duty but are sometimes used in offensive operations.