Thaton Field Report: A transition to peace? Villagers' concerns about ongoing militarisation from January 2016 to December 2017

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Thaton Field Report: A transition to peace? Villagers' concerns about ongoing militarisation from January 2016 to December 2017

Published date:
Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Thaton Field Report: January 2016 to  December 2017

This Field Report describes events occurring in Thaton District, southeast Myanmar between January 2016 and December 2017. It includes information submitted by KHRG community members on a range of human rights violations and other issues important to the local community including the military situation in the post-ceasefire period, development projects, drug usage, ethnic and religious discrimination, and violence because of conflicts about land use.

  • According to the information received during KHRG’s 2 year reporting period, Tatmadaw military movement in Thaton District has been ongoing.  Military movement includes Tatmadaw troops encamping in villages and being stationed more permanently in bases near villages.
  •  In this reporting period, many infrastructure projects were implemented across Thaton District. Nippon Foundation (locally known as Japan non-government organisation), Bridge Asia Japan (BAJ), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Community-Driven Development (CDD), Myanmar government and private companies developed infrastructure projects in Bilin Township such as building clinics, schools, roads and bridges in addition to improving water supply and distributing rice, and installing solar panels.
  • Yaba (methamphetamine) is prevalent in many areas throughout Thaton District. Villagers have many concerns about this and worry about the future impacts of drug use, especially for their children and young people.
  • Ethnic and religious discrimination remains of concern in Thaton District. Incidents include Muslim residents being denied their national identity cards, preventing them from enjoying full citizenship rights.
  • Conflicts over land occurred in Thaton District due to arbitrary land grabs. A group of village leaders confiscated land that was used by landless people to resettle. As a result, total of 650 houses and huts were destroyed and burnt down by the local village authority in Kyaikhto Township, Thaton District in January and February 2016.

 

 

Footnotes

[1] 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. The signing of the NCA followed the January 12th 2012 preliminary ceasefire agreement between the KNU and Burma/Myanmar government in Hpa-an. Karen civilians and the KNU have more recently expressed their concerns about the lack of progress in moving from a ceasefire towards genuine political dialogue. See, KNU Chair Highlights Weaknesses In The NCA During Anniversary Celebrations, Karen News, October 2017 and NCA signatories urge govt to reboot peace process, DVB, October 2017.

[2] 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.

[3] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, February to April 2016,” KHRG, February 2018.

[4] 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.

[5] This information is taken from “http://khrg.org/2017/04/16-101-s1/thaton-situation-update-bilin-township-july-september-2016” KHRG, April 2017.

[6]THE NATIONWIDE CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE UNION OF MYANMAR AND THE ETHNIC ARMED ORGANIZATIONS”, (October 15th 2015), access date February 26, 2018.

[7] For more information about ongoing fighting in other districts of KHRG documentation area after NCA see “Ongoing fighting, displacement, landmines, porter demands, and child recruitment in Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa-an District, October and November 2017”, KHRG, December 2017 and “Dooplaya Situation Update: Kawkareik Township, June 2015 to August 2016”, KHRG, December 2016.

[8] Light Infantry Division (LID) of the Tatmadaw is commanded by a brigadier general, and consists of ten light infantry battalions specially trained in counter-insurgency, jungle warfare, search and destroy operations against ethnic insurgents . They were first incorporated into the Tatmadaw in 1966. LIDs are organised under three Tactical Operations Commands, commanded by a colonel, three battalions each and one reserve, one field artillery battalion, one armoured squadron and other support units. Each division is directly under the command of the Chief of Staff (Army).

[9] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, November 2016 to January 2017,”KHRG, February 2018.

[10] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, July to October 2017”, KHRG, February 2018.

[11] THE NATIONWIDE CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE UNION OF MYANMAR AND THE ETHNIC ARMED ORGANIZATIONS, last  access date February 26, 2018.

[12] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, July to October 2017”,KHRG, February 2018.

[13] THE NATIONWIDE CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE UNION OF MYANMAR AND THE ETHNIC ARMED ORGANISATION”, (October 15th 2015), access date February 26, 2018.

[14] On January 12th 2012, a preliminary ceasefire agreement was signed between the KNU and Burma/Myanmar government in Hpa-an. Negotiations for a longer-term peace plan are still under way. For updates on the peace process, see the KNU Stakeholder webpage on the Myanmar Peace Monitor website.

[15]  This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, February to April 2016”, KHRG, February 2018.

[16] This information is taken from unpublished situation update from Bilin Township received in August 2016.

[17] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, February to April 2016”, KHRG, February 2018.

[18] This information is taken from unpublished situation update received from Hpa-an township in June 2016. 16-49-S1

[19] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, July to October 2017”, KHRG, February 2018.

[20] Yaba, which means “crazy medicine” in Thai, is a tablet form of methamphetamine. First developed in East Asia during World War II to enhance soldiers' performance, methamphetamine has become increasingly popular in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia Vietnam, and in Burma/Myanmar where it is typically manufactured. See, "Yaba, the 'crazy medicine of East Asia," UNODC, May 2008 and “Woman raped and killed in Pa’an District, October 2012,” KHRG, December 2012, and “Chapter: Drug production, use and the social impacts in Southeast Myanmar since the January 2012 ceasefire,” KHRG, June 2014.

[21] Crime such as rape and killing happened implicated to yaba drug. See: “Dooplaya Incident Report: Rape and Killing of a teenage girl in Kawkareik Township, August 23rd 2016”, KHRG, January 2017.

[22] For more information related to yaba see, “Growing drug use and its consequences in Dooplaya and Hpa-an districts, between February and December 2015”, KHRG, May 2016 and “Hpapun Situation Update: Bu Tho Township, September to November 2016”, KHRG, June 2017.

[23] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, July to September 2016”, KHRG, April 2017.

[24] KHRG continues to receive reports detailing villagers’ concerns over increased drug use and drug trading in their communities. See for example “Growing drug use and its consequences in Dooplaya and Hpa-an Districts, between February and December 2015,” May 2016.

[25] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, February to April 2016”, KHRG, February 2018.

[26] This information is taken from “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, July to October 2017”, KHRG, February 2018.

[27] The classification ‘Muslim’ in Southeast Myanmar is referred to and often self-identified as both a religion and an ethnicity. Muslims in Myanmar can be of different or mixed ethnicity. In Rakhine State there are two main groups, the self-identified Rohingya Muslims (not recognised by the Myanmar government and referred to as Bengali) and the Kaman/Kamein Muslims (officially recognised as one of Myanmar's 135 ethnic races). Outside Rakhine State, Muslims can also be Indian Muslims, Pakistani Muslims, Malay Muslims, Chinese Muslims (Panthays), Burmese converts, and Muslims from mixed marriages. Throughout KHRG's 25-year reporting history Muslims in southeast Myanmar have not identified themselves as Rohingya and mostly self-identify as 'Muslim'. For more information regarding Muslims in Myanmar see:  The Muslims of Burma: A study of a minority Group, YEGAR, M.,1972; Between Integration and Secession: The Muslim Communities of the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, and Western Burma/Myanmar, Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz; YEGAR, M. (2002); PRIESTLEY, H. (2006) ‘The Outsiders’, The Irrawaddy, [Online] January; MATTHEWS, B. (2001) ‘Ethnic and Religious Diversity: Myanmar’sUnfolding Nemesis’, Institute of South East Asian Studies, [Online] Visiting Researchers Series 3.

[28] Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty: Article 15 “Everyone has the right to a nationality”,Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ United Nations General Assembly, 1948.

[29] See: “THE GLOBAL NEW LIGHT MYANMAR,” Dr.Khine Khine Win, Director of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, May 2016.

[30] Ka la, is a Burmese/Myanmar term which is sometimes used to refer to individuals in Burma/Myanmar who are perceived to have a darker skin colour. In Kayin state, it is often associated specifically with followers of Islam (Muslims), although this association is sometimes erroneous, and Muslim individuals do not typically self-identify with this term.

[31] In UDHR article 15; (1) everyone has the right to a nationality and in article 13: (1) everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state, ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ United Nations General Assembly, 1948.

[32] This information is taken from unpublished interview received from Thaton Township, Thaton District in May 2016.

[33] This information is taken from “Thaton Interview: U A---, 2016”, KHRG, December 2016.

[34] For detail information see; “Toungoo Interview: Maung A---, April 2015,” KHRG, January 2016.

[35] For detail information see, “Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, June to August 2016”, KHRG, March 2017.

[36] This information is taken from “Thaton Interview: U A---, 2016”, KHRG, December 2016.

[37] See, “Thaton Situation Update: Thaton Township, January to June 2015,” KHRG, January 2016.

[38] See; “Discrimination; The Rohingya minority”, AMNESTLY INTIONATIONAL, last access February 9, 2018.

[39] See, “Myanmar treatment of Rohingya looks like 'textbook ethnic cleansing', says UN”, The Guardian, September 2017.

[40] See,Myanmar's discrimination against Rohingya Muslims is 'apartheid': Amnesty International”, ABC News, November 2017.

[41] According to vacant, fallow and virgin land management law, vacant land and fallow land mean the land on which agriculture or livestock breeding business can be carried out and which was tenanted in the past and abandoned for various reasons and without any tenant cultivating on it and the land which are specifically reserved by the state. For more detail about Myanmar land law see: https://www.lift-fund.org/sites/lift-fund.org/files/uploads/Vacant,%20Fallow%20.....%20Land%20Law.pdf.

[42] In larger villages located near towns in Burma/Myanmar, one leader is elected per one hundred households to take responsibility for them.

[43] For detail information see: “Trespassing villagers’ houses destroyed and burnt down in Kyaikto Township, Thaton District, February 2016”, KHRG, July 2016.

[44] The Farmland Law of 2012, which covers the confiscation process for land actively being used; and the Vacant, Fallow, and Virgin Land Law, which allows for the confiscation of any land categorized as vacant, fallow, or virgin. Although villagers never explicitly name these laws, a number of cases were reported in which government officials or wealthy actors demarcated land, both privately and communally held, as uncultivated in the process of confiscating it.

 [45] These photos are taken from previous published KHRG news bulletin, “Trespassing villagers’ houses destroyed and burnt down in Kyaikto Township, Thaton District, February 2016”, KHRG, July 2016.