MOMC No. 5 commandeers trucks in Thaungoo District

December 15, 2009

HURFOM: Truck owners in Than Tha Bin Township in Thaungoo district, Pegu Division, were forced to transport food supplies and weaponry to Burmese military camps in the region, under the orders of Military Operation Management Command No. 5, lead by Commander Khin Maung Sint.

On December 3rd of this year, 8 truck owners from the Karen villages of Ye Toe Kyi and Boe Ka Lee were ordered to transport military supplies for MOMC No. 5 for 3 days; according to Saw Maung Kyi, a 40 year-old truck driver from Ye Toe Kyi village, the drivers did not receive compensation.

HURFOM’s field reporter learned that supplies were brought to the villages by MOMC No. 5, en route from the command’s base supply camp in the region, to the front lines of the Burmese military’s and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army’s  (DKBA) offenses against the Karen National Union (KNU), near the Naypyidaw Division border.

Saw Yo Na, a 35- year-old truck driver also from Ye Toe Kyi village, told HURFOM, “we not only did not get our labor fee, but also we had to use our own gas and petrol. We had to spend our own money for the costs [of the journey]. The journey was two days long. We had to travel in dangerous places, because the area is near KNU Brigade No. 2.”

“I have had to work [as a transporter] for this MOMC seven times this year. I have had to invest my own gasoline, between 40,000 and 50,000 kyat’s worth, per time. I have nothing [to fund me] on my way back from carrying the load. I have had to lose not only my business but also my money. I want to sell my truck as soon as possible, because if I still have this car I will eventually die in the conflict between the KNU and the Burmese military soldiers”, Saw Maung Kyi told HURFOM.

“I want to run my [truck] business in my village, but I don’t have any chance to do it, because I have to work for both the DKBA and Burmese military soldiers. I not only have to pay for the cost of the truck, bust also for gasoline and food costs [during these journeys]”, said Saw Yo Na reported.

According to HURFOM’s field reporter, most villagers in the area are rice and betel nut farmers. This particular region of Pegu Division has been occupied by the Burmese military since early 2009; this most recent incident of transport commandeering comes at the close of a year’s worth of abuses committed against Karen villagers by Burmese military battalions based in the area. Villagers interviewed by HURFOM’s field reporter described episodes of residents being tortured by the army under suspicion of being KNU soldiers, and incidents of villagers being forced to build and maintain army camps were also reported.

Area residents informed HURFOM’s field reporter that they suspect that the ongoing abuse in the region is part of an attempt by the Burmese military to drive the ethnic Karen villagers living in Thaungoo district away from the region. According to locals, Karen villagers are perceived being allied with the KNU, and hence are viewed by the Burmese military as being threats to the Naypyidaw Division border.

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