Situation Update | Htantabin Township, Toungoo District (August to September 2017)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in November 2017. It was written by a community member in Toungoo 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 Toungoo District, including 36 photographs.
This situation update describes events occurring in Taw Oo [Toungoo] District during the period between August 8th 2017 and October 31st 2017, including Tatmadaw activities, civilians’ [livelihoods] situation, education, health and financial fraud.
Tatmadaw camps location and activities
Active Tatmadaw soldiers patrolling in Taw Oo [Toungoo] District are led by Military Operation Command [MOC] #13.
- Tactical Operations Command [TOC] #1 is based in P’Leh Wa Tatmadaw camp and led by Lit. Colonel Soe Moe Kyaw.
- TOC #2 is based in Bu Hsa Hkee camp and led by Colonel Htoo Hlaing.
- Light Infantry Battalion [LIB] #358 is based in Taing Pu camp, Way Tan Hkwon camp and Nat Tha Mi Taung hill camp and led by Colonel Myo Min Htun and Lit. Colonel Thaing Tan.
- LIB #555 is based in Way Tho Kyi and Maung Taing Kyi army camps and led by Colonel Mo Kyaw U and Captain Hsan U.
- LIB #557 is based in Htin Shu Taung camp and led by Lit. Colonel Way Pwo Aung and is also based in Bu Hsa Hkee camp and led by Captain Zay Ya Htwun.
- LIB #558 is based in Hkay Pu camp and led by Lit. Colonel Kyaw Myo Taik and Major Zay Ya So.
- LIB #559 is based in Maung Nwe Gye camp and Nan Chein Hkwin camp and led by Lit. Colonel Ye Win Aung and is based in Leik Pwa Lay camp and led by Colonel Myo Min Hton.
- LIB #561 is based in Kyi Chaung camp and led by Major Zaw Nyein and is based in Lay Hsel Shit Maing camp and led by Major Kyaw Lwin Hein.
- LIB #585 is based in Ta Hsel Chauk Mee La, Na Hsel Mee La, Pa Leh Wa, Pwaung Tho and Thit Say Taung camps and are led by Lit. Colonel Kyaw Zaw Ya and Major Nyi Nyi Hton.
- LIB #603 is based in Leik Tho Town camp and patrols in Leik Tho area.
The Tatmadaw based in Taw Oo [Toungoo] District rotate and send rations once every four months. Villagers from A--- [village] reported that the Tatmadaw have also been sending more soldiers and ammunitions [during the period between August and October].
In October 2017 the Tatmadaw ordered Karen National Liberation Army [KNLA] soldiers based at the KNLA checkpoints in Shway Naung Pin village and Na Hsel Ta Maing area to take down their checkpoint, but the KNLA refused to follow the Tatmadaw order. As a result, the Tatmadaw set up bases for soldiers from the Battalions under Military Operations Command [MOC] #13 next to the KNLA checkpoint.
Healthcare services in Taw Oo [Toungoo] District are insufficient, especially in villages under the control of the Burma/Myanmar government in Per Htee area, Htaw Ta Htoo [Htantabin]. The most prevalent illnesses afflicting villagers in Taw Oo District are diarrhoea, malaria, stroke and stomach aches. There are some Burma/Myanmar government midwives [Mother and Child Care] in Lay and Sha Say Bo villages, but due to a shortage of medical supplies, villagers must travel to the Htoe Lwee Wah [Karen Department of Health and Welfare] clinic when they are sick.
After the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement [NCA] was signed [between the KNU and the Burma/Myanmar government in November 2015], the livelihoods situation for villagers in Taw Oo District has improved. Thus, villagers can travel to their farms and plantations safely without being attacked [by the Tatmadaw]. Villagers in Htaw Ta Htoo [Htantabin] and Daw Hpa Hko [Thandaunggyi] Townships are working on plain farms, plantations and some villagers work selling fruits [such as cardamom] to secure their livelihoods. In August 2017, villagers’ cardamom plants were attacked by wild pigs and other insects so plantation owners face livelihood challenges [because they earn insufficient money from their crop].
In Htee Pu Khee village, Htee Tha Hkaw also known as Htee Tha Saw area, Daw Hpa Hko [Thandaunggyi] Township a financial [scheme] known as Ah Leh Kya Gnway Hto Yu Mu Laung Tan Ka Sa was led by a rich 50 year old villager, U Kyaw U who lives in Ah Mat Chaung She Thon, Hkay Ma Thi road, Section #7, Hpwa Po Town. His father’s name is U Myint. He [U Kyaw U] first met with a Karen National Liberation Army [KNLA] soldier named Saw Chit Sa Ya in Kwun Pin village, who then took him [U Kyaw U] to meet the KNLA Battalion #5, Company #2 Commander Saw Wah Htoo. They then discussed the proposed financial scheme and Saw Wah Htoo gave permission to U Kyaw U to proceed with the financial scheme on May 2nd 2017. After KNLA Township and [Toungoo] District level leaders received information about the financial scheme issue, they requested organisers and participants in the financial scheme to attend a meeting with them, but the organisers and participants in the financial scheme did not meet with them. Nevertheless, representatives of the Township and District level KNLA researched into the financial scheme and concluded that the scheme cheated the villagers of their money and should be considered financial fraud. According to the financial fraud, each participant was [initially] requested to contribute 1,000 kyat (US $0.75)to U Kyaw U, with the promise of potentially getting back up to 10,000 kyat (US $7.52). U Kyaw U would take approximately 30% of the money for himself and give approximately 70% of the money to one random contributor that he selected. Due to potential of a high payoff, many villagers participated. Some participating villagers even sold their land [that their family rely on to secure their livelihoods]. Consequently, after KNU Taw Oo District leaders investigated this issue, they took action against the people organising the financial fraud and the local authorities who permitted the fraud to be implemented in the community. KNLA Battalion #5, Company #2 Commander Saw Wah Htoo and KNLA soldier Saw Chit Sa Ya were accused of abusing their power and the rule of the [KNLA] army so they [Saw Wah Htoo and Saw Chit Sa Ya] temporarily had to resign from their positions for six months as punishment. On August 22nd 2017, KNU Taw Oo District administrators held a consultation meeting with villagers in Hta Pu Hkee village to discuss and gather villagers’ perspectives regarding the KNU taking action to halt the financial fraud.
After the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement [NCA], Klay Wah Mu area, Daw Hpa Hko [Thandaunggyi] Township, Taw Oo [Toungoo] District has not received any educational support from the Burma/Myanmar government. This area is located in a KNU area so they are able to access some support from the Karen Education Department [KED]. The schools [in Klay Wah Mu area] only go up to Standard Four so some students who finished Standard Four have to continue their studies at KNU Daw Hpa Hko [Thandaunggyi] and Htaw Ta Htoo [Htantabin] Township schools. Some students attended Htoe Lwee Wah high school and Burma/Myanmar government schools in towns such as Thandaunggyi Town.
Villagers also face the challenge of not having enough available teachers. Consequently, many students’ educations are interrupted so students’ parents had to internally recruit villagers who finished high school to be teachers, pay some teachers’ salaries and help teachers’ work [on teachers’ farms].
The information reported above reflect the incidents I [KHRG researcher] have witnessed. Students’ parents are struggling to locally recruit teachers in order for their children to access education and support their children’s education. Students’ parents from Ya Lo village, Maw Nay Pwa area, Htaw Ta Htoo Township, Taw Oo District are uneducated, but nonetheless work very hard to improve their children’s educations by recruiting teachers from religious groups. Regarding healthcare, villagers who face illnesses usually treat them[selves] with herbal medicine, but when they face serious illnesses they have to go to hospital in towns such as Toungoo Town. Nevertheless, villagers who can read and write were sent on behalf of their village to attend basic healthcare training organised by the KNU health department [KDHW]. Many village representatives attended the KNU health department medical training in 2016 and 2017 at the [KNLA] Battalion #6 office. Those representatives will return to their villages and distribute their knowledge into the village regarding healthcare.
After the NCA was signed in 2015, the Tatmadaw do not follow the [NCA] agreement and instead patrol wherever they want to go without informing the KNU [KNLA]. Civilians are concerned that this behaviour may negatively affect the peace process. Civilians request that all Tatmadaw soldiers remove their army camps from areas near villages.