Htee Wah Keh villagers have accused the Burma Army’s militia, the Border Guard Force, of taking their farmlands and selling it to near-by villages in 200-acre blocks of land. Htee Wah Keh village is close to Kawkaraik Township, Karen State.
The villagers claim that BGF Captain Saw Htay Naing, from Battalion 1021, began measuring the farmland in early September. A villager who asked not to be named told Karen News that Captain Saw Htay Naing asked neighboring villages to pay 40,000 Kyat for an acre of land.
‘People are scared to buy the land since as it is in a state forest area. Villagers worry that they won’t have legal right to the land after they’ve paid for it.”
The villager said there had some outside buyers who bought the land from the BGF for a rubber plantation.
Local villagers said they are concerned if natural forests are replaced with rubber trees the red timber tree leaves they need to roof will no longer be available to them.
“The land the BGF is selling is in a forest reserve and there are many red timber trees. If these trees are replaced we won’t be able to find leaves for our huts roofing. It will also restrict us collecting other plants and foodstuffs we now rely on.”
Villagers say there are as many as 20 villages near Htee Wah Keh village that are affected by Border Guard Force Battalion 1021’s land grab. The BGF Battalion 1021 is bases at Doh Ler village and is under the command of Major Saw Bi Lu.
Villagers say it is not the first time they have had their lands taken from them and sold. Under the Burma Army’s former militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, plot of lands were sold to villagers in the previous fours years before the DKBA was reformed into the BGF militia.
Since its formation in August of this year, the BGF has been torn apart by factional splits that resulted in as many as 1,500 soldiers leaving the Burma Army’s militia to reform the DKBA. Since the split the DKBA has formed an alliance with the Karen National Liberation Army and have been involved in combined operations against the Burma Army and the BGF.