Eight village tracts forced to provide unpaid, 24-hour road sentries

January 11, 2009

HURFOM: Inhabitants of eight village tracts are being required to work as unpaid security guards along the Thanbyuzayat to Ye motor road. Headmen in the area are also being threatened with 2 to 7 year prison sentences if rebels make any attacks.

The threat was issued to headman on December 11th, in a meeting convened by Colonel Khin Maung Cho, 1st Commander of Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 106. The meeting was attended by headmen from Wae-Kha-Mi, Bay-Lamine Ka-Nin-Ka-Moh village tracts in Thanbyuzayat Township and Bae-La-Mu, Don-Phee, Hnin-Sone, Ayu-Taung and Kyaung-Ywa village tracts in Ye Township. Each village tract is home to 2 to 3 villages.

According to a local resident, 38, who is close to a headman who attended the meeting, Khin Maung Cho pressured the headmen to increase security in their areas. “Colonel Khin Maung Cho pushed them [the village headmen] very hard in the meeting. He threatened them with punishment of 7 year prison sentences for village tract headmen and 2 year sentences for village headmen if government forces are attacked by armed rebels in LIB No. 106 controlled areas,” said the source. “No one has been affected by Khin Maung Cho’s order yet, but I am sure that this new demand frightens them and pushes them hard to keep their village more secure.” HURFOM has received reports of at least one clash between the Karen National Liberation Army and Burmese army battalion since the meeting, but could not confirm whether the promised penalties have been issued.

A source in Hnin-Sone village confirmed that troops in the area have been ordering villagers to increase security measures since early December. “We have been forced to guard the road since early December, for 24 hours a day on a rotating basis. My household has to guard twice a month. When I have time, I go on patrol and sometimes my eldest son goes instead,” said Saw Tae, 65. “We are too poor to pay [to exempt our household from guard duty]. The headman ordered us to pay 3,000 kyat per day to hire another person if we do not patrol the road. Some other families pay for hiring another wage-earner through the village headmen.”

A source in Ka-Nin-Ka-Moh village described similar circumstances. “On December 19th, Colonel Than Win from LIB No. 587 ordered all households to patrol the motor road [connecting Thanbyuzayat to Ye] and watch for rebel movements near the village. We also have to build at least 7 huts along the road for the security providers [the villagers] to stay in while they guard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All duties are organized on a rotation. I have been forced to guard two times already for village and road security,” said Nai Non, 45. “Commander Than Win demanded another group [separate from the road sentries] to record any strangers who pass through the area including every means of transport which is used on the road each day. They are required to take notes on trucks, cars, and motorcycle with their license numbers.”

Villagers in the area have repeatedly been required to work as unpaid security guards, but a teacher from northern Ye explained that the recent orders differ from previous directives. In times past, he said, villagers were made to focus on village and pipeline security, rather than the motor-road. A gas pipeline connecting the Yadana gas fields to a cement factory in Myaing-Kalay traverses most of Mon State and passes through the Wae-kha-mi, Ka-nin-ka-moh and Ayu-taung village tracts.

Villagers, rather then headman, were also the ones held responsible in previous time, the source explained. “The Burmese commanders are behaving unlike they have ever behaved before,” he said. “This time, the headmen themselves are going to be victims.”

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