Fifty days after Chaung Hna Kwa armed conflict: Forced Relocation, Property Destruction and Loss of Innocent Lives

January 15, 2024

HURFOM: The armed conflict between the military junta and the joint forces of the Karen National Liberation Army and the People’s Defense Force has lasted more than 50 days, stretching from November 30th, 2023 to January 15th, 2024.

Local residents from nearly 20 villages have experiencing forced relocation, property destruction and loss of innocent lives, torture and extortion, lack of education opportunity, insufficient health service and food shortage.

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Four residents arrested by junta in Kan Bauk

December 20, 2023

HURFOM: On December 17th, 2023, a man and three women from Kan Bauk Town, Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division were arrested by the military junta in their home at midnight.

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Coup forces civilians to become victims to landmine explosions

December 12, 2023

HURFOM: Since the attempted coup on February 1, 2021, the use of landmines has re-emerged across Burma. Communities that never experienced the consequences of landmine explosions are now enduring casualties, injuries and disabilities.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) reports there has been an increased use of anti personnel landmines across Burma.

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Drug abuse in Mon State is uncontrollable

November 28, 2023

HURFOM: “I sent my son to the New Mon State Party Centre to receive addiction treatment. He’s cured and returned home but it didn’t last even for a month. He’s abusing drugs again. Now, I have to let him do what he wants,” said a disappointed mother from a village in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State.

Another mother explained what was happening to her son at this time.

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“I’ll chop down my betel nut plants”

November 8, 2023

HURFOM: “If the price of betel nut is going to drop like this, I’ll chop down my betel nut trees and replace them with rubber plants or grafted durian plants,” said a betel nut plantation owner from Southern Ye Township, Mon State.

The price of betel nut in Ye Township has been dropping since early 2023 and now, extreme price drops have nearly destroyed the market, local people told HURFOM.

In October, 2023, 1.63 kg of dried betel nut could get 1,200 to 1,800 MMK but now, it is only priced at 800 to 1,200 MMK. In addition, there have been no buyers for betel nuts.

Not only the price drops but also no buyers. It’s the worst – we can’t find a buyer even if we’re in need of cash,” said one plantation owner.

The betel nut had a good price in 2021 with 1.63 kg being priced at 8,000 to 9,000 MMK. The price has dropped nearly ten times within two years.

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“The price drop this year has made us want to die. We borrowed money to put fertilizer, to remove bushes, to clean the plantation and to peel betel nuts. I’ve planned to pay our debt after the harvest season. But it didn’t go as planned. We’ve had a really tough life,” said a betel nut farmer from Southern Ye Township.

Farmers in Yeh Township rely on agriculture for their livelihoods,  and 70% of them grow betel nuts.

I had betel nuts from the previous season and I’d wait for a good price to sell them. Now, new betel nuts are ready to harvest. If the price is going to drop like this, we’re in the worst situation,” said another plantation owner.

All basic food prices and commodity prices have risen sharply, but the price for betel nut has dropped dramatically, making it very difficult for betel nut farmers.

We rely on the betel nut plantation for everything. Now commodity prices have risen but only our product has a bad price. We’re worried about our sustenance,” said another farmer.  

Betel nuts from Ye Township have been exported to China, India and Bangladesh but there is no export at the moment. 

Law comes from the barrel of a gun

October 6, 2023

HURFOM: “Just kill my son if he works as an informant for the military junta. I won’t complain about that. But it isn’t true now. He is the one who has fed us. It’s totally brutal,” mourned a mother of a Long Lone resident who was killed by the Long Lone Township People’s Defense Force (PDF).

On September 26, 2023, the Long Lone PDF announced they arrested and killed seven military junta’s informers between July to September, 2023.

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Junta desperate for US dollars tries to exploit migrant workers

October 3, 2023

HURFOM: After the attempted coup,  many countries in the international community undertook some economic sanctions as a way to show their opposition to the junta. The World Bank also decided to halt loans to Burma.

As a result export income has declined, and economic sanctions of the international community are proving to have some impact.

Singapore recently decided to cut its dealings with two banks controlled by the junta.

These efforts are making it more difficult for the junta to access US dollars.

In response the junta has turned to exploiting migrant workers abroad, as a short term remedy to access US dollars.

On September 1, 2023, the junta declared that migrant workers abroad must transfer back 25% of their salary to Burma via official transfer systems to domestic banks. If not, they would be banned from working abroad for three years.

We’ve worked like slaves to get this money and we have to send 25% to the junta. It’s totally unfair. When we were in trouble abroad, no one came to help us,” said a Burmese migrant worker in Thailand.

When transferring their salary to their families, most migrant workers use a fast, simple and illegal money transfer agency, rather than the complicated and often delayed official banking system.

After declaring the new law targeting migrant workers, the junta began to arrest illegal money transfer agencies and their brokers in Mon State.

From September 15 to 17, 2023, five illegal money transfer brokers were arrested in Kyike Hto, Paung and Thaton Townships and face charges under section 171 of the Monetary Association Laws Act.

They’ve arrested illegal money transfer brokers to increase the pressure on migrant workers to use the official banking system. If so, they (the junta) will get 25% (of their salary),” said a local source.

Critics of the new law note the junta already exploits income from natural resources extraction to kill its own people. Migrant workers are unwilling to send their salary back to banks controlled by the junta as they don’t want their salary to be a contribution to killing people in Burma.

In addition, the junta controlled banks use an exchange rate that is much lower than the exchange rate being used in the actual market.

On September 19, 2023, one Thai Baht was equivalent to 96.5 MMK in the actual market but the junta-controlled banks say the Thai Baht is equal to 55 MMK. One US dollar is equivalent to more than 3,000 MMK in the actual market but one US dollar is priced at more than 2,000 MMK in domestic banks.

After the attempted coup, the numbers of workers interested in working abroad sharply increased and many go abroad via legal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) pathways with select countries, or via undocumented routes.

Migrant workers who came under MOU agreements often have to do jobs which are different from the job classifications described in their MOU contract. Even though they came with an MOU, they couldn’t get that type of job when arriving here. They had to wait for months. It’s terrible,” said a migrant worker in Thailand.

The junta is now also pressuring “foreign work agencies” to make sure that migrant workers had signed documents agreeing to send 25% of their salary back to their mother country before they leave the country.

I had to sign the document. But I don’t know how to transfer back my salary,” said a migrant worker who recently left Burma.

One of my friends had gone to Korea for work and he/she had to sign a document before their departure agreeing to send back 25% of their salary. It’s compulsory,” said another local source.

The National Unity Government says this latest move by the junta is a breach of the 1999 Foreign Work Law,  and is abusive and oppresses migrant workers.

Ye residents develop night patrols system to protect against rising number of thefts

September 18, 2023

At about 6 am on September 15, 2023, Thanbyuzayat residents found a man hanging from electrical wires.   He appears to have died from an electric shock while trying to steal electrical cable wire from the utility pole in Aung Ku Toe Ward, Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State.

He’s a part-time worker from the EPC (Electricity Providing Committee). He tried to steal wire from the utility pole last night, and died from an electric shock. His body was found in the morning,” said a Thanbyuzayat resident.

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“Kratom Culture” is growing in Mon areas: substance abuse on the rise

March 20, 2023

HURFOM: Summer festival season celebrates ordinations and weddings.  The season has arrived in many Mon communities. Kratom leaf liquor  plays an important and essential role in the festival season, to welcome and treat visitors.

Kratom leaves are boiled  in a big bowl and distilled to create the liquor that is served to neighbors who came to support the ceremony and guests. During the festival season people are drinking alcohol, beer and Kratom liquor and dancing happily in the ordination ceremonies

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Public health system collapses: public helpless in fight with Covid-19

July 27, 2021

HURFOM: The public health system of Mon State has collapsed during the third wave of COVID-19. High infection rates and deaths have left the  public helpless in the fight against the pandemic.

In response to the coup, health workers have left their workplaces, and public hospitals do not have enough beds to accept COVID-19 patients. Private clinics have also closed due to the large number of cases.

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