Toungoo Situation Update: Htantabin Township and Thandaunggyi Township, April to July 2017

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Toungoo Situation Update: Htantabin Township and Thandaunggyi Township, April to July 2017

Published date:
Monday, February 12, 2018

This Situation Update describes events occurring in Htantabin Township and Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District during the period between April and July 2017. This report includes civilians’ situation, Tatmadaw activity and its’ bases, health, education, KNU/KNLA (Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army) activity, infrastructure projects and landmines.

  • Since the ceasefire, villagers no longer face travel restrictions by armed groups and are now free to travel between townships in Toungoo District. However, villagers are still concerned about the fragile peace process because Tatmadaw troops remain active and have not withdrawn their troops from civilian areas.   
  • Expensive medical costs at Burma/Myanmar government hospitals in Toungoo District make them unaffordable for villagers. Therefore, villagers must find private clinics to treat their sicknesses.  
  • KNU schools are under-funded and receive less support than Burma/Myanmar government schools. In addition, there are still self-reliant schools in some places that have not received any support and thus have not improved, such as schools in K’Shee Hkee area, western Day Lo area, and the western Klay Wa area of Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District.
  • Landmines that were laid by both the Tatmadaw and the KNLA before the 2012 ceasefire have still not been removed in Toungoo District.

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] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] Tactical Operations Command; made up of three battalions and a headquarters, usually under a Military Operations Command (MOC) and a Light Infantry Division (LID).

[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] 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.

[8] As per the 2012 preliminary ceasefire agreement between the KNU and the Burma/Myanmar government, the Tatmadaw are only allowed to operate and travel up to 50 yards from either side of roads that connect their army camps through KNLA territory, and only within a 150 yard radius around their own army camp.

[9] Villagers are wary of the Tatmadaw’s presence near villages because villagers view their presence as a sign of potential conflict. After the ceasefire, many villagers expected the Tatmadaw and other armed group to withdraw from civilian areas. However, villagers have instead reported that there has been ongoing militarisation in the region with Tatmadaw and BGF in some cases strengthening their army camps, rotating troops, and conducting military trainings. This causes villagers to question the integrity of the ceasefire. For more insights into villagers’ perspectives on military presence near villages, see ‘Ongoing militarisation in southeast Myanmar,’ KHRG, 2016. For more information on villagers’ thoughts and concerns about the peace process, see Chapter 9 of ‘Foundation of Fear: 25 Years of Villager’s Voices from Southeast Myanmar,” KHRG, October2017.

[10] The National League for Democracy (NLD) is the current political party that governs Burma/Myanmar. Led by Aung San Suu Kyi and President Htit Kyaw, the NLD won the General Elections in 2015 and came into power in 2016. For more information, see “Burma Country Report,” HRW, 2017, and for additional background information, “Foundation of Fear: 25 Years of Villager’s Voices from Southeast Myanmar,” KHRG, 2017.

[11] The Joint Monitoring Committee was established at the Myanmar state and regional level in late 2015 to monitor signatories’ adherence to the October 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. It considers the majority of its monitoring to be based on territorial disputes, but has been slow to respond to complaints over breaches of the NCA code of conduct, and lacks a formal complaint mechanism, or any enforcement powers. For more information see, “Majority of joint ceasefire monitoring committee complaints are territorial disputes,” The Irrawaddy, July 2017.

[12] Villagers perceive that landmines laid by the KNLA pose less of a threat than landmines planted by the Tatmadaw because KNLA landmines were frequently handmade whereas Tatmadaw landmines were manufactured in China, India, Italy, U.S., Russia, and other sources. However, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, landmines may remain active for over 50 years and pose a threat to anyone in proximity to them. For more information on the use of landmines in the Karen State, see, Uncertain Ground: Landmines in Eastern Burma, KHRG, May 2012, and Foundation of Fear: 25 years of villager’s voices from southeast Myanmar, KHRG, October 2017.

[13] KHRG strongly recommends that the Myanmar Government, Tatmadaw, BGF, and ethnic armed groups (EAGs) agree to and enforce a comprehensive ban on the use of landmines and ensure the location of existing landmines are marked and made known to villagers. KHRG further recommends that before demining efforts occur, meaningful consultations are held with relevant stakeholders and local communities. In addition, the removal of landmines, unexploded ordinance, and other remnants of war must be done by trained professionals. For more information, see: Foundation of Fear: 25 years of villager’s voices from southeast Myanmar, KHRG, October 2017.