Mergui-Tavoy Field Report: Growing concerns about land confiscations and development-related abuses, January 2016 to December 2017

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Mergui-Tavoy Field Report: Growing concerns about land confiscations and development-related abuses, January 2016 to December 2017

Published date:
Tuesday, July 3, 2018

This Field Report analyses information collected by KHRG researchers on events that occurred in Mergui-Tavoy District between January 2016 and December 2017. It describes different human rights violations and other issues important to the local community.  It includes villagers’ concerns about development projects, land confiscation, military activity, domestic abuse, refugee repatriation, education, healthcare and villagers’ livelihood.

  • Local communities in Mergui-Tavoy District are concerned with the increasing number of land confiscations that have occurred after the 2012 preliminary ceasefire agreement. In the past two years, private companies and the Burma/Myanmar government have both confiscated lands from rural communities. Without agricultural land, villagers faced severe livelihoods challenges. A lack of accountability, as well as the absence of proper consultations and compensation,  are barriers for villagers trying to reclaim their land. Because powerful actors are involved in land confiscations, villagers are worried for their safety when advocating for their land rights.
  • Despite the ceasefire agreements, many refugees in the Tam Hin camp in Thailand are worried to return to Mergui-Tavoy District because of safety concerns and livelihood challenges.
  • Villagers reported that fighting and human rights violations have decreased in Mergui-Tavoy District since the 2012 ceasefire agreement. Despite the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, Tatmadaw are still engaged in some military activities, including transporting rations, patrolling near civilian areas, conducting military trainings, and strengthening army camps.
  • Since 2015, the Burma/Myanmar government has built many healthcare clinics in Mergui-Tavoy. However, villagers in isolated areas find it difficult to access healthcare services because of a lack of medicines and an insufficient number of health workers.
  • Education has not improved in Mergui-Tavoy District since the new Burma/Myanmar government came to power. Children have limited opportunities to learn Karen language. In rural areas, additional barriers to education include a lack of finances and a shortage of teachers.

Footnotes

[1]Mergui-Tavoy District is a mixed-control area under the Karen National Union (KNU) and Burma/Myanmar government. Therefore, townships in Mergui-Tavoy District are defined differently by both administrations. The KNU defines five townships in Mergui-Tavoy District, which are K’Ser Doh, Ler Muh Lah, Ta Naw Th’Ree, Ler Doh Soh and Htee Moh Pgha townships, whereas, according to the Burma/Myanmar government defined territory, there are nine townships in Mergui-Tavoy District: Thayatchaung, Dawei, Myaik, Tanintharyi, Kyunsu, Kawthoung  Bokpyin , Yaypyu and Launglon. Mergui-Tavoy District is also called Tanintharyi Region [according to Burma/Myanmar government classification] and is located in the southern region of Burma/Myanmar. The Burma/Myanmar government defines the region’s capital as Dawei.

[2] 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.

[3] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Situation Update: Ta Naw Th’Ree Township, 2017” KHRG, July 2017.

[4] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Naw A---, August 2017” KHRG, December 2017.

[5] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Saw A---, March 2017” KHRG, September 2017.

[6]In Myanmar, all lands are owned by the union of Myanmar government according to Section 37, Sub-Section (a), in Chapter I of the Basic Principles of the Union of State Constitution (2008). A land title is owned by Myanmar government, but it can be transferred by individuals, used for any legal purpose, and constitutes most individual holdings in urban areas. A lease can range from 10 to 90 years, and be extended and no limits exist on selling the land rant to other Myanmar nationals.

[7] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Saw A---, February 2017” KHRG, September 2017.

[8] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Situation Update: K’Ser Doh Township, June to September 2017” KHRG, December 2017.

[9] All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the 9 May 2015 official market rate of 1,343 kyats to US $1.

[10] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Naw A---, August 2017”, KHRG, December 2017.

[11] 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. For KHRG's analysis of changes in human rights conditions since the ceasefire, see Truce or Transition? Trends in human rights abuse and local response since the 2012 ceasefire, KHRG, May 2014. In March 2015, the seventh round of the negotiations for a national ceasefire between the Burma/Myanmar government and various ethnic armed actors began in Yangon, see “Seventh Round of Nationwide Ceasefire Negotiations,” Karen National Union Headquarters, March 18th 2015. Following the negotiations, the KNU held a central standing committee emergency, see “KNU: Emergency Meeting Called To Discuss Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement And Ethnic Leaders’ Summit,” Karen News, April 22nd 2015.

[12] This information is taken from an unpublished report from K’Ser Doh Township received in June 2017.

[13] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Naw A---, August 2017” KHRG, December 2017.

[14] Civil society groups strongly disagreed with this Memorandum, see, “Tanintharyi Development Projects Must not Proceed without Transparency and Accountability” December 2016.

[15] The dam will be constructed 2.7 kilometers away from the upper part of Moh Roh village. The hydropower dam project would have the capacity to produce 1040 megawatts (MW) of electric power from the Tanintharyi River.

[16] This information was taken from “Proposed Hydropower Dam Project in Tanintharyi Region, Mergui-Tavoy District, 2017”, KHRG, June 2017 and “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Saw A---, March 2017” KHRG, September 2017.

[17]This information was taken from “Proposed Hydropower Dam Project in Tanintharyi Region, Mergui-Tavoy District, 2017”, KHRG, June 2017.

[18] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Saw A---, March 2017” KHRG, September 2017.

[19] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Saw A---, February 2017” KHRG, September 2017.

[20] CKB is a branch of the Green Dragon Myanmar Company, owned by U Bo Sein. CKB Company states on its website that it has 20,000 acres of palm oil plantation and an additional 3,500 acres for further planting in Mergui-Tavoy District. See “GREEN MYANMAR DRAGON”.

[21] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Situation Update: Ta Naw Th’Ree Township, 2017”, KHRG, July 2017.

[22] This information is taken from an unpublished report from Ta Naw Th’Ree Township received in November 2017.

[23] This information is taken from an unpublished report from K’Ser Doh Township received in January 2017.

[27] This information is taken from an unpublished report from Ler Doh Soh Township received in March 2016.

[28] This information is taken from an unpublished report from Ler Doh Soh Township received in November 2017.

[29] Tatmadaw refers to the Myanmar military throughout KHRG's 25 year reporting period. The Myanmar military were commonly referred to by villagers in KHRG research areas as SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) from 1988 to 1997 and SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) from 1998 to 2011, which were the Tatmadaw-proclaimed names of the military government of Burma. Villagers also refer to Tatmadaw in some cases as simply "Burmese" or "Burmese soldiers".

[30] This information was taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Situation Update: Ler Muh Lah Township, November 2015 to January 2016”, KHRG, August 2017.

[32] Tham Hin refugee camp is one of the nine refugee camps, which is located in Suan Pueng District, Ratchaburi Province, Thailand approximately 12 kilometres from the Thai-Myanmar border. Tham Hin refugee camp is the nearest camp to Mergui-Tavoy District and the closest camp to the border of Burma/Myanmar. The majority of Tham Hin refugees are Karen; other ethnic minorities include Barman and Mon. There were 6,167 refugees in Tham Hin refugee camp in September 2017.  In 2005, the Thai government gave approval for resettlement opportunities to be offered to refugees from nine refugee camps. This information is taken from “Thailand: Tham Hin Temporary Shelter Profile (September 2017)

[33] This information is taken from “Mergui-Tavoy Interview: Hpuh A---, January 2017” KHRG, October 2017.

[36] This information was taken from an unpublished report from Ta Naw Th’Ree Township received in March 2017.

[37] For more information on necessary conditions for return, please see ‘Displacement and return’ chapter from “Foundation of Fear: 25 years of villagers' voices from southeast Myanmar” KHRG, October 2017.

[38] This information is taken from an unpublished report from Ler Doh Soh Township received in March 2016.

[40] This information is taken from two unpublished reports and one published report from Ta Naw Th’Ree Township received in 2017.

[41] This information is taken from an unpublished report from K’Ser Doh Township received in November 2017.

[48] This information is taken from an unpublished report from K’Ser Doh Township received in January 2017.