Army demanding local residents for gas pipeline security persist in Thanbyuzayat township

December 23, 2008

HURFOM, Thanbyuzayat: Local Burmese army battalions are forcing villagers in Thanbyuzayat Township to guard the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline. Residents unable to meet their sentry obligations are being forced to pay fines.

Saw Nay, 45, a resident of Waekhami village, Thanbyuzayat township said Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 62 ordered his village to patrol the gas pipeline for the next five months, starting in early December. “The Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Than Swe, 50, of Burmese Army IB No. 62 from Thanbyuzayat, demanded we guard the pipeline. They set up a timeline [for patrolling periods] of at least the next five months, starting from this month. He [Lt. Col Than Swe] instructed our village headmen to send two villagers every day. Those who are absent have to pay 4,000 kyat to the village headmen as sentence,” he added.

According to a HURFOM reporter in Thanbyuzayat Township, Lieutenant Colonel Than Swe’s order applied to at least eight other villages located along the Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline route. Affected villages include Waekhami, Anin Kyaung Way, Anin, Waewinkara, Sakhan, Taungout, Pain-Nae-Taw, Krein-Padaw and Sakhan Gyi villages.

“They [the village PDC] attached this order signed by Lieutenant Colonel Than Swe on the board in front of Village Peace and Development Council office,” said a resident of one of the affected villages. “A person from each household must provide security for the gas pipeline on a rotating basis, according to the order. The sentry duty will last the next five months, starting in this month.”

The resident added that, though most villagers have finished harvesting the paddy crop their work is not over. The rice seeds still need to be stripped from the paddy and prepared for delivery to market. People do not have the time to provide 24-hour guard for the pipeline, he said. “But who dares to complain about this unpaid job?” he added.

Most villagers seem to be planning to serve their sentry duty. “My duty will come soon. I don’t want to pay 4,000 kyat. That amount of money is enough to feed my family for two days. So, I have to go and guard the pipeline,” said Nai Akyaw, who had that no one in his village has refused to work and paid the fine for fear of ending up on the battalion’s black-list.

One of the villages included in the order, Anin village, has never been required to provide pipeline security detail. One respected community member from the village told HURFOM that he does not understand why the army is demanding villagers provide security because the pipeline is located over 4 kilometers away.

“The pipeline is far from us. The village is far from the pipeline, about 2.5 miles. So, I don’t understand why the Army forced us to guard their pipeline. We have been never forced to work of this pipeline before,” he side.

The other seven affected villages have been required to provide sentries for the pipeline in the past. “Normally every year we are forced to look after this gas pipeline for no pay,” said Nai Akyaw, 35, from another affected village. “Last year in February, we [the entire village] were required by Artillery Battallion No. 318 to take responsibility for the security of the pipeline for four months.

The Kanbauk to Myaing Kalay gas pipeline transports fuel from the Yadana gas fields in the Andaman Sea. The gas in the pipeline is for two cement factories near Pa-an Township. The gas pipeline passes through five townships in Mon State and local people have been repeatedly forced to provide security payments or stand sentry. Most recently, HURFOM reported in the second week of November HURFOM reported that at least four villages in nearby Mudon Township were required to provide similar sentry duty.

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