Army Battalion commits human rights violations

March 11, 2009

HURFOM: An army battalion has been committing human rights violations in all the villages in Khawzar Sub-township, forcing them to labor on a local road and stand sentry duty against rebel groups as well as demanding that villagers pay for rifles for the Peoples Militia Force (PMF). Villagers have also been forced to pay illegal taxes to military appointed headmen before and after they travel abroad to work.

No. 61 Light Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Yae Lon Oo, has been forcing each household from all nineteen villages in Khawzar Sub-township, to work on separate sections of the road. The villagers have been forced to repair the road every year but previously they have been grouped together as villages rather than households. Not only has the new method of organization made the work harder but the villagers have also been forced to transport their own materials.

According to one villager from Yin Yae village, “in our village every household had to work on a 24 feet long, six foot wide section of road. We all had to carry the equipment and materials by ourselves.”

Villagers have also been made to stand sentry duty for their villages from 6pm to 6am every night to prevent attacks by rebel groups. Every household has had to provide sentries, including a widow who lives by herself.

Additionally, Lieutenant colonel Yae Lon Oo has been demanding money for the PMF’s rifles since 2008 but so far only one village out of the nineteen, Chang Gu village, has complied with his demands.

A local resident said, “he’s been trying to get money from the villages in Khawzar Sub-township since last December. He demanded it from all nineteen villages but he failed and only got money from Chang Gu. Most of households there had to pay 30,000 Kyat but the poorest families had to pay 3000 Kyat.”

In all nineteen villages, however, locals have been forced to pay an illegal tax of 10,000 Kyat to the village headmen whenever they depart to work in foreign countries, such as Thailand, and are forced to pay again when they return. If they refuse to pay the headmen, appointed by the military, threaten villagers with being sent to soldiers who will force them to pay more.

According to a Yin Yae villager, “when my brother came back from working in Thailand he had to give the headman 10,000 Kyat, the same amount he had to pay when he left. The headman also made him buy two bags of cement and three sheets of zinc.”

The villager added that this was not only happening in his village but in all the villages in Khawzar Sub-township.

Since the New Mon State Party (NMSP) agreed a ceasefire with the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1995 the southern part of Ye Township, in which Khawzar is situated, has been completely under the SPDC’s control although rebel groups have been active in the area during that time. The SPDC have named the area as a “black area” and the kinds of human rights violations inflicted on the Khawzar villagers have been occurring since they took control.

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