Hpapun Situation Update: Lu Thaw Township, March to May 2017
Hpapun Situation Update: Lu Thaw Township, March to May 2017
This Situation Update describes events occurring in Lu Thaw Township, Hpapun (Mu Traw) District during the period between March and May 2017, including information about recent military activity, a protest organised by internally displaced people, landmines, education, and health.
- On March 26th 2017, soldiers from Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #351 and Infantry Battalion (IB) #72 set fire to seven hill farms while trying to clear vegetation around a vehicle road. Because of this fire, some villagers in Pla Hkoh and Yeh Mu Plaw village tracts were unable to cultivate paddy on their land and faced food shortages.
- On May 15th 2017, 615 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Lu Thaw Township held a non-violent protest in Thee Nga Plaw place, Pla Hkoh village tract. They called for the Tatmadaw to withdraw from their army camps so that they could return to their villages and resume cultivating their lands.
These photos were taken on May 14th 2017 in the area between Pla Hkoh and Saw Mu Plaw village tracts, Lu Thaw Township, Hpapun District. These photos show Pla Hkoh hill, villagers’ houses, farms, and the army camp location of Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion [LIB] #351. The Tatmadaw army camp is based in the area where there are no trees on the hill, a 30-minute distance by foot from the villagers’ houses and farms. [Photos: KHRG]
These photos were taken on March 28th 2017 in Pla Hkoh and Yeh Mu Plaw village tracts. The photos show several hill farms that were burned on March 26th 2017 by Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #351, based in Kuh Hkoh, Pla Hkoh village tract and Infantry Battalion (IB) #72, based in Pwa Gaw, Yeh Mu Plaw village tracts. These hill farms were owned by villagers who live in Pla Hkoh and Yeh Mu Plaw village tracts.
The first and second photos show the hill farms that were so damaged by the fire that villagers were unable to cultivate them. This damage was so extensive because the Tatmadaw interrupted the traditional cycle of forestry management by prematurely burning the hill farms.
The third and fourth photos show the hill farms that villagers were able to cultivate despite the fire. However, it was hard for the villagers to plant new paddy seeds because of the difficulty of clearing tree branches and small logs that were not fully burnt. [Photos: KHRG]
These photos were taken on May 15th 2017, in Pla Hkoh village tract, Lu Thaw Township, Hpapun District. They show IDPs in Lu Thaw Township holding a protest to urge the Tatmadaw to withdraw their army camps in order to enable IDPs to return to their original villages and work on their plain and hill farms safely and securely.
The photos above show IDPs holding a short worship service before the protest. The photos below show the protest signs written in S’Gaw Karen language: “Villagers in Pla Hkoh village tract are holding a protest to urge the Tatmadaw to withdraw from our original villages and working areas.” In total, 615 IDPs participated in this protest. [Photos: KHRG]
 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.
 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.
 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.
 A Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) usually comprises of 500 soldiers. However, most Light Infantry Battalions in the Tatmadaw are undermanned, with less than 200 soldiers. 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.
 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 12th2012 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.
 'Home guard' or gher der groups have been organised locally in parts of northern Karen State to address Tatmadaw operations targeting civilians and the resulting acute food insecurity. Villagers interviewed by KHRG have reported that gher der were established with the objective of providing security for communities of civilians in hiding, particularly when those communities engage in food production or procurement activities, and when other modes of protection are unavailable. For more on the gher der see: “Self-protection under strain: Targeting of civilians and local responses in northern Karen State,” KHRG, August 2010.
 All conversion estimates for Thai bhat in this report are based on the official market rate of June 18, 2018 of THB 32.66 to US $1.
 Myanmar is one of the few countries not party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty. Although the laying of landmines was prohibited in the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, Myanmar is one of the last remaining countries where landmines are still actively used. KHRG has found that the Tatmadaw, KNLA, DKBA (Benevolent, Buddhist, and splinter) and BGF have all planted landmines in Karen State. In ‘Uncertain Ground: Landmines in eastern Burma’ KHRG, 2012, KHRG illustrates how civilians view landmines either as a source of protection or as a threat depending on the location of the landmines and which actors planted them. However, according to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), landmines may remain active for over fifty years and pose a threat to anyone in proximity to them. KHRG continues to receive reports on landmines that have not been cleared, the laying of new landmines, and an increased risk of mortality from contaminated civilian areas. KHRG strongly recommends in its report, ‘Foundation of Fear: 25 years of Villagers’ Voices from Southeast Myanmar,’ KHRG, 2017, 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 that the existence of landmines are marked and made known to villagers.