Community confusion and tension mount after Burmese and Karen army visits demand support

March 5, 2010

HURFOM: Villagers who base in Ye Township and Thanbyuzayat Township are increasingly confused as pressure to act for or against the coming 2010 election mounts, from both the Karen National Union (KNU) and Burmese government State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) troops.

According to a headman who asked the HURFOM field reporter to withhold the name of his village for security purposes, in the first week of February, KNU Major Maung Shwe entered the village and gathered villagers to held meeting. In the meeting the Major gave a speech to villagers, explaining that all villagers in the village have to stand against every activity that the regime government is undertaking, especially in regards to the coming election. He also quoted the Major’s words, “All the regime activities give no benefit to [you] villagers – they are only doing [these things] for their own benefit.”

Many villagers agreed are reported to have agreed with the KNU major’s speech according to the headman. Yet villagers also encounter SPDC troops who are conducting similar campaigns using the same rhetoric and techniques, as the KNU forces in the area.

In the 2nd week of Feburary, Light Infantry Battalion’s (LIB) such as No. 591 and No. 583 entered the village and to hold a meeting with villagers.

A speech by the LIB captain to villagers addressed how every villager has to show their support for the coming election and that if someone wanted to stand against the coming election, they would become the enemies of the State Peace and Development Council.

The headman also explained to HURFOM that the LIBs captains further ordered villagers not to listen to the insurgent speaches.  He told villagers that the insurgent arm groups can do nothing to development of the country, that they only make problems for the country and do profit for anyone other then themselves.

SPDC troops conducted similar organizeing campaigns in 12 villages near by that village which are based in Ye Township. In Thanbyuzayat Township, villages such Baylamine, Kalaketake, Tuleal, Gu Mong, Warpaw, Min Hla Aye, Zaw, Kyaung Ywa and Htar Kyaik, have been visited by regime troops more than 10 times, each time coming to carry out election activities.

According to a HURFOM field reporter who lives in the area (Thanbyuzayat Township), SPDC troops from LIB No. 591, No. 583 and No. 106 came organize villages along the eastern motor road villages. Soldiers have conducted a variety of different campaigns, such as health care, including provision of Malaria medicine and mosquito nets, and treatment of diarrhea. Villagers have also reported that troops are helping villagers with house work such as collecting fire wood and are involved in villagers work activities.

According to a Kyaung Ywa villager, there has been an increase in new residents and traders that are coming and living in the village. Villagers suspect that these strangers are SPDC informers and spies, and that they are increasingly being watched by SPDC. The villager stated that he feels less free then he has in the past.

“Now villagers are getting confused about who they can listen to – both of them [KNU and SPDC] have guns and they both insist that we must listen to them,” said A Zaw a 30-year-old area resident. When the results [of the election] come we will all die because both SPDC troop and KNU soldiers strongly believe their own views. We are going crazy with what are we supposed to do about the coming election.”

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