Government militia arrest villagers over land rights

On Monday 16 January, witnesses claim that the Nat Htate village headman and two villagers were taken at gunpoint from their homes by a group of unknown men in army uniforms.

A villager, who asked not be named, spoke to Karen News about the incident.

The villager said the headman, Saw Aye Paw, 45, and two other villagers, Saw Kaw Pai, 50, and Saw Kyaw Eh Chan, 28, were arrested by the armed group. The men came to Nat Htate village in four vehicles.

According to a Karen News source the armed group took the villagers to Lone Ka Htike village, Myaing Gyi Ngu area of Hlaingbwe Township. The villager said the arrested men were scared but none of them were tortured.

“The armed group came to the village, arrested the three men and took them away to another place. Our villagers asked the armed men ‘why you guys bring us here? What have we done?’

The BGF answered to our villagers ‘you people know what you have done’. After one day and night of detention the soldiers sent back our villagers to Pa-an.”

The villager said the arrested men and other villagers claim the armed group was members of the Burma Army controlled militia, the Border Guard Force.

“We now know the villagers were arrested by Border Guard Force soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Lah Theint. Fortunately, the men are now backing home safely. They returned to the village at 9:00 pm on Wednesday, January 18.”

Villagers believe the incident is related to a letter of complaint the Nat Htate headman sent to government authorities asking for the return of 3,000 acres confiscated by the Border Guard Force. In response to the village headman’s letter government authorities said that 237 acres of the confiscated land would be returned to the villagers.

Villagers claim the land has been in their hands for generations and was seized by two militia groups, sponsored by the Burma Army – the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the Border Guard Force – in a three-year period spanning from 2007 to 2010. Villagers alleged the militia groups have since been selling the disputed land to investors.

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