Hpapun Interview: Naw H---, December 2017


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Hpapun Interview: Naw H---, December 2017

Published date:
Monday, June 18, 2018

This Interview with Naw H--- describes events occurring in Dwe Lo Township, Hpapun District, during the period between 2015 and 2017, including information about drugs, gambling, sexual assault and rape, arbitrary killing, education and health.

  • The Tatmadaw, Border Guard Force (BGF) and local authorities organise gambling events every year in Lay Hpoe Hta village tract, Dwe Lo Township, Hpapun District in the winter and summer. People from the area have become addicted to gambling.
  • Since the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was signed in 2015, more people have been using yaba. This increase is linked to the fact that yaba can be purchased more easily from armed groups in Lay Hpoe Hta village tract.
  • A 71-year-old man named Dtee Kyaw Win was killed with a gun by an unknown armed actor around October 2015 in Wah Tho Hkoh area. Local authorities have not investigated this killing case. The victim’s family does not know why he was killed.
  • The interviewee testified that a DKBA soldier sexually assaulted and raped her when she was 16 years old. This incident occurred when the DKBA patrolled with the Tatmadaw in Lay Hpoe Hta village before the ceasefire period.


[1] KHRG trains community members in southeastern 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 conducting interviews, community members are trained to use loose question guidelines, but also to encourage interviewees to speak freely about recent events, raise issues that they consider to be important and share their opinions or perspectives on abuse and other local dynamics.

[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 April 26th, 2018 official market rate of 1,399 kyats to US $1.

[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. The signing of the NCA followed the January 12th 2012 preliminary ceasefire agreement between the KNU and Burma/Myanmar government in Hpa-an

[5] Yaba, which means ‘crazy medicine’ in Thai, is a tablet form of methamphetamine. First developed in East Asia during the Second World War to enhance soldiers' performance, methamphetamine has become increasingly popular in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Burma/Myanmar where it is typically manufactured. See, Yaba, the 'crazy medicine' of East Asia, UNODC, May 2008; Chapter IV in Truce or Transition? Trends in human rights abuse and local response in Southeast Myanmar since the 2012 ceasefire, KHRG, June 2014; “Thaton Situation Update: Bilin Township, July to September 2016,” KHRG, April 2017; and “Dooplaya Field Report: A quasi-ceasefire? Developments after the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, from January to December 2016,” KHRG, September 2017.

[6] 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.

[7] While Tatmadaw and DKBA units had operated together for years, this operational hierarchy became formalised with the DKBA’s transformation into a ‘Border Guard Force’ under control of the Tatmadaw and containing a fixed number quota of Tatmadaw officers. This transformation dates to at least May 2009, when commanding officers stated in high-level meeting of DKBA officers that the DKBA would transform itself into a ‘Border Guard Force;’ unpublished leaked minutes from the May 2009 meeting are on file with KHRG. Ceremonies attended by Tatmadaw commanders officially announced the transformation of large portions of the DKBA into Border Guard Forces in September 2010; see, for example: “Border Guard Forces of Southeast Command formed in Paingkyon of Kayin State,” New Light of Myanmar, August 22nd 2010; and “Border Guard Force formed at At Winkwinkalay Region, Myawaddy Township, Kayin State,” New Light of Myanmar, August 25th 2010.

[8] The term Kaw Thoo Lei refers to Karen State as demarcated by the Karen National Union (KNU), but the exact meaning and etymology is disputed; see: Jonathan Falla. True Love and Bartholomew: Rebels on the Burmese Border, Cambridge University Press: 1991

[9] The Karen National Union is the main Karen group opposing the government.

[10] Hko Per Baw refers to the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), originally formed in 1994 as a breakaway group from the KNLA. Since its separation from the KNLA in 1994, it was known to frequently cooperate with and support the Tatmadaw in its conflict with the KNLA. The original group underwent major change in 2010 as the majority of the original DKBA was transformed into the BGF, which is under the control of the Burma/Myanmar government. The remainder of the original DKBA formed a smaller splinter group in 2010 and then changed its name in 2012 from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army to the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. Following this major change in 2010, the original DKBA is considered to no longer exist as a distinct entity as it has now been submerged within the BGF. This original DKBA (Buddhist) (1994 – 2010) should not be confused with either the DKBA (Benevolent) (2010 – present) which was formed as a breakaway group from the original DKBA, or with the DKBA (Buddhist) (2016 – present) which was formed as a splinter group from the DBKA (Benevolent) (2010 – present) in 2016. For more information on the formation of the DKBA, see “Inside the DKBA,” KHRG, 1996.

[11] ‘Ar Wer’ is a term coined by DKBA, BGF and KPC and used to describe special days, hence the expression ‘Ar Wer day.’ Ar Wer day events typically involve  celebrations  to  mark  a  special  occasion  such as  the  building  of  a  new  pagoda or to honour these armed groups. Sometimes people also engage in illicit activities such as gambling and drug use on Ar Wer days. The Ar Wer Day is primarily celebrated by armed groups to serve as a main fundraising activity for them.

[12] A standard refers to a school year in the education system of Burma/Myanmar. The basic education system has a 5-4-2 structure. Primary school runs from Standard 1 to Standard 5, lower secondary school is Standard 6 to Standard 9, and upper secondary school is Standard 10 to Standard 11.

[13] Pa Dtee or Dtee is a familiar term of respect in S’gaw Karen attributed to an older man that translates to “uncle,” but it does not necessarily signify any actual familial relationship.

[14] Saw Thoo or Saw Wah is a Karen phrase that is commonly used to indicate when someone does not know a particular person or who they are speaking of.

[15] Merit is a Buddhist concept whereby an individual accumulates merit as a result of good deeds or thoughts and may be shared with a deceased loved one in order to help them in their new existence.

[16] A big tin is a unit of volume used to measure paddy, milled rice and seeds. One big tin is equivalent to 10.45 kg or 23.04 lb of paddy, and 16 kg or 35.2 lb of milled rice.

[17] Bo is a Burmese title meaning ‘officer.’