Short Update | Mone Township, Nyaunglebin District (November 2016 to February 2018)
The following Short Update was received by KHRG in April 2018. It was written by a community member in Nyaunglebin 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 Nyaunglebin District, including two other incident reports and 142 photographs.
Tatmadaw road construction
On November 15th 2016, Saw W--- and Saw M---, two villagers from Hsaw Mee Loo village, shared their perspectives about the construction of a road by the Tatmadaw in Hsaw Mee Loo village, Mone Township.
The Tatmadaw Battalion Commander Tin Maung Kyaw from Infantry Battalion #57 negotiated with the Mu Theh village tract leader Khin Than Mu before the road construction and asked him to sign an agreement paper. This agreement was then reported to the Township Administrator, the Minister of Bago Division and village tract leaders.
Tatmadaw forces settled into a military base in the local area. They wanted to widen an existing military operation road that was about 50 feet wide. First, the road was constructed in Mu Thel village, Ken Doe village tract, Kyaukkyi Township. It was then expanded to Mone Township area.
Local villagers were not informed of the details of this road construction. They were not able to negotiate the time, the process, and the consequences of the road construction. Because of this, the road damaged [the land of the local community, including] numerous farms and plantations. Local villagers reported the case to the Tatmadaw and the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) by submitting a complaint letter. They also gave speeches [voicing their opposition to the land confiscations], but no actions were taken for the villagers [impacted by the road construction]. Therefore, villagers had no choice but to pray. The villagers did not dare to continue their confrontation because they are afraid of the Tatmadaw.
Ko Naing, a 36-year-old villager from Mi Taing Taw village, Mone Township expressed [his feelings] about the stone mining operation developed by private companies in Mone Township. [He described how every year,] 14 companies operated the stone mine in the Mone River. The stone mining workers did not have any permission letters to operate the mine from the Burma/Myanmar government. Instead, they received permission from the Mone Township Administrator U Tin Myo Aung. This permission was obtained by paying a bribe.
The amount of stone mining has gradually increased since 2016. This has a negative impact on the environment, by causing landslides and damaging plantations owned by local villagers. Despite this grave situation, the local community is afraid of confronting Tatmadaw forces [to voice their opposition to the stone mine].
[The incident described below shows how these communities can be taken advantage of by different actors with diverse interests.] Yan Naing, a local journalist encouraged villagers to protest against the stone mine. Local community members demonstrated on November 6th 2017. Although Yan Naing Aung encouraged local people to protest, he did not take any actions to help the villagers until the end of their protest. [Instead of helping the local community, Yan Naing Aung used this opportunity for personal gain, asking the company workers for bribes in exchange for stopping the protest.] He left the village [Mi Taing Taw village] after he collected 50,000 Kyat [US $37] from each stone mining worker as a bribe. On December 31st 2018, local villagers held another protest. Despite these repeated protests, the workers continued mining the stone.
On February 2nd 2018, the Hkoh Poo village tract leader, Saw K’Paw Htoo said that the Tatmadaw and Burma/Myanmar authorities in Mone Township were stopping local villagers from logging wood. [He held a number of authorities responsible for this situation, including] the Tatmadaw military camps, Tatmadaw personnel from checkpoints, media groups, the police force, officials from the Forestry Department, representatives of Sittaung Thanzin JMC and officials from Tatmadaw Military Security Affairs.
Villagers had received permission from the KNU authorities in Mone Township to use wood from the local forest to build their houses. When the KNU gave permission to the villagers, local community members logged the forest and brought back wood to their villages. The Tatmadaw and Burma/Myanmar authorities hindered this activity by requesting bribes from local community members and arresting villagers.
While they were transporting wood back to their villages, local community members had to pay taxes and bribes at different Tatmadaw checkpoints, army camps and to different Burma/Myanmar government authorities. For instance, villagers had to pay 30,000 Kyat [US $22] to each of the local Tatmadaw groups, including: the Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #440 based at K’Pel Camp, the LIB #440 that based at Bin Pyeh Camp, the Infantry Battalion (IB) #60, the LIB #351, the IB #75 and the Tatmadaw Military Security Affairs. Villagers also had to pay 20,000 Kyat [US $15] to the Forestry Department and 50,000 Kyat [US $37] to Burma/Myanmar police.
In addition to this, villagers had to pay 30,000 Kyat [US $22] to other authorities, including the Township minister, the media group (Pegu Wikali) and Sittaung Thazin JMC. Finally, they also had to pay 5000 Kyat [US $3.8] for each checkpoint along their route. Sometimes, villagers were also arrested in this process.
Even though the KNU gave permission to log and transport wood, local community members paid a large number of bribes on their way from the forest back to their village. [They faced challenges] even though they paid bribes to every group of authorities. In this situation, nobody stood with the local villagers when they were facing challenges. Villagers had to solve these issues on their own.
[KHRG has received reports of] local community members being disturbed when they are logging wood by officials from Tatmadaw Military Security Affairs, the Forestry Department, or the police.