Situation Update | Tanintharyi Township, Mergui-Tavoy District (November 2017 to March 2018)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in March 2018. It was written by a community member in Mergui-Tavoy 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 Mergui-Tavoy District, including one other incident reports, 1 interview and 56 photographs.
Access to learning (Karen) language has been limited since the national peace process has begun. More Myanmar government teachers were assigned to teach in rural communities. The schools had to adopt the Myanmar Government curriculum in which ethnic minority languages were not prioritised. In some joint [Myanmar government and KNU] schools in P’Leh Aor Kloh Hkoh, K’Mah Loh and D’Haw villages, pupils were allowed to learn Karen language on Saturdays but not on the regular school days.
There are two Karen high schools in Mergui-Tavoy District where students can the teaching of Karen is not restricted. One is the Ler Muh Lah Township high school, which goes up to Standard Ten. The other is the Tanintharyi Township School. It is located in Thoo Lei Plaw village and goes up to Standard Seven.
Poverty remains a barrier for rural communities to access education in Tanintharyi Township. In 2017, some children had limited opportunities to study because their parents could not afford to pay for their education. Instead of attending school, children in poor families have to help their parents earn livelihoods.
Since 2012, local businessmen have started extracting lead in Kay Hkee and Kay villages, Tanintharyi Township, Mergui-Tavoy District. Initially, there were no issues. However, after 2015, more businesses and workers arrived to the area. The large-scale mining caused water to turn muddy in the Kay River. It also polluted a forest. Villagers were negatively affected because they rely on the Kay River for water and on the natural environment for their daily needs. Some local people worked in the lead quarries as day workers to earn money.
In Kay Hkee village, lead is not being mined by registered companies, but by rich individuals. Padoh Nya Wah from Tanintharyi Township is monitoring the lead mining operations that are causing tensions. He learned that there are 120 groups that operate lead mining sites, and 800 labourers.
A code of conduct was agreed upon between different local business groups. It states that whoever contaminates waters as a result of lead mining would be fined 1,300,000 Kyat [USD 835.50] and would be forced to stop their operation for one month. In 2018, the lead mining operators agreed to have a meeting on the 25th of every month.
The construction of a ring road by the Shway Kyun Aa Man Company damaged local plantations in T’Pah village, Kadan Island. It affected the rubber and cashew plantations of Saw ---. During the road construction, from January to March 2018, the company used stones from Saw W---‘s land to build the road. They also damaged 300 rubber trees during the process, out of a total of 400 trees. No negotiations were held before the road construction took place. No compensation was provided for the damaged plantations.
The company responsible for this is Shway Kyun Aa Man. The operation was organised by Kyaw Nay So. It was managed by Lwin Ko, who would not often visit the construction site. At the moment, the road construction is still ongoing.
Drug trafficking remains a prevalent issue in Mergui-Tavoy District, despite the efforts of local authorities to prevent it. On December 7th 2017, KNU police arrested a 39-year-old man for drug trafficking.
On December 15th 2017, the KNU vice-police chief Saw Dah Beh and his policemen arrested a 33-year-old man for drug trafficking. He had previously been arrested at a KNU checkpoint in Bein Taw village tract, Tanintharyi Township.
On December 23rd 2017, the police arrested Naw N---, a 22-year-old woman, for transporting 300 opium pills in her car. Currently, Naw N--- is detained in the Burma/Myanmar government prison in Mergui-Tavoy. Her court date has not yet been decided.
On March 2nd 2018, the Tatmadaw military police from Tanintharyi Township, Burma/Myanmar government officials, and local civilians organised a marijuana clearing event [search and destruction of marijuana plants] in Kyweh Htein Kon village. This event was attended by Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #561 Captain Aung Ko Lat, soldiers Soe Naing Thu, Nay Lin Oo, Myit Htay, Nyein Chan Aung, Lin Aung, Min Min So, Than Aung, Kyaw Win, Tanintharyi Chief police Saw Maung, Daw Hpyu Win from Women Affairs, and Daw Yi Yi. It was also attended by the chief of the militia in Nyaung Pin Kwin village Htay Oo and his nine soldiers, five firemen, five elders and the Chief of Tanintharyi’s Forestry Department Aung Kyaw So.
Many people in this area struggle financially because they do not have plantations to work on. To sustain their livelihoods, many landless people turn to casual work. They clear plantations for which they receive 7,000 Kyat [USD 4.5] a day. The average daily payment for casual work is 8,000 Kyat [USD 5.14] for men and 5,000 Kyat [USD 3.21] for women. The local community believes that there has been an increase in drug problems because of poverty.
A land dispute has occurred in Kloh Hkoh area between a Bamar man, U Han Htun, and a Karen woman, Naw P---. U Han Htun confiscated land owned by Naw P--- and cut down trees on her plantation to build boats. He did not provide any compensation nor did he return the land to Naw P--. She reported this case to the KNU Township leader Nya Wah in Tanintharyi Township and the District leader Thoo Yeh. The KNU leaders promised to take action to prevent land disputes from occurring again in the future. In January 2018, Padoh Nya Wah resolved this problem by ordering the U Han Htun to vacate the land.