Burma army threats force villagers to abandon farms

Threats from Burma army have forced more than 30 farmers in the Papun district of Karen state to abandon their farms and plantations.
The villagers from Bu Tho Township sought help from the Karen National Union after the Burma army forced villagers to carry army supplies.

A statement released by the KNU alleges the Burma army Light Infantry Brigade 214 had ordered villagers to report to the army camp for portering duty.

Saw Tender, a KNU official in Papun district in an interview with Karen News said 26 farms were abandoned in Toh Poe Hta Pa Deh and Kaw Poh villages, and another six farms abandoned in Kay Hta village.

“Local villagers in the area have been ordered to carry up to five sacks of rice per household. They can’t say no. They [Burma army] burnt the villager’s plantations. Many villagers lost their farms.”

Saw Tender said it is difficult to estimate the total acreage lost in the fires, but villagers claim that each farm lost could produce between 100 to 150 baskets [equivalent to two tins – 32 kilograms] of paddy.

Saw Tenders told Karen News the next harvest will be hard on villagers.

“Villagers worked hard to clear their land to get it ready for planting. Households came together to help each other get their farms prepared. Many can’t work their farms anymore.”

Local villagers worried about the ongoing abuses by the Burma army reported their grievances to KNU official in Papun district in the hope that the information would spur the national and international communities to pressure Burma’s government to stop the army taking forced labor.

The villagers told Karen News that the destruction of their farms will mean they will face severe food shortages at the next harvest. Villagers said during March and April Burma army battalions under Division 11, IB 434 and LIB 19 have forced villagers in Bu Tho Township to porter food supplies to various army outposts in the area.

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