Burma Army Abuses Increase During Mobile Network Shut Downs in Thaton District

Villagers in the Karen National Union controlled areas of Thaton District reported human right violations by the Burma Army and its militia increased in recent months.

In early September 2021, Thaton Districts villagers reported while mobile phone networks were shut down the Burma Army and its militia, the Border Guard Force (BGF) increased its attacks.

Saw Kay*, a community leader said as soon as mobile networks were blocked on September 16, the Burma Army and BGF soldiers subjected villagers to a campaign of terror.

“MPT, Telenor and Mytel mobile networks were cut off… when communication networks were cut off we could no longer communicate with each other. [Burma Army] Violations happened almost every day. BGF troops in Lay Kay village demanded bamboo and wood… ordering villagers to collect the bamboo and wood. It was not the first time they demanded and there is no payment for doing it. In Lay Kay village, villagers were ordered to cut down coconut trees and take them to the military camp to build bankers.” Saw Kay* said.

The Karen Human Right Group (KHRG) on 20th September 2021, reported BGF soldiers ordered as many as 300 villagers from Htee Hpah Doh Hta and Yoh Klah village tracts in Doo Tha Htoo District to porter rations and munitions to the Lay Kay Burma Army camp. The majority of porters taken were women, but also included elderly people, and even those who were sick – 12 porters were under the age of 18 – nine girls and three boys.

According villagers, BGF troops not only forced villagers to labor, but in some areas they were ordered and forced to name and appoint a village chief. A position villagers are now afraid to take up since the military coup on February 1 of this year. Military appointed village chiefs have become targets for assassination by opposition groups in many parts of the country. The military has forced villagers against their will to work as chiefs on rotations of 15 to 30 days.

A villager who wittness the situation told Karen News that they can’t refuse because they fear for their safety.

“We cannot say no to their orders as they have weapons, we have no choice but to obey what they command. We live in fear during the day, at night and every day. In my village, villagers are forced to work as chief for one month. In my village, three joint village chiefs work for a month. They afraid to work alone so they work together to support each other. It’s better to have a companion because they afraid to go alone when summons by the Burma Army and BGF. There is no more long-term village administrator, only these monthly rotated chiefs. Many village adminisrators resigned because they are afraid.”

Saw Kay* said that in addition to the [daily] human rights abuses, they Burma Army and BGF troops fired artillery shells indiscriminately into villages.

“Their shelling resulted in killing and injuring livestock and destroying villagers’ houses…. heavy weapons, fall and explode in villages hitting homes causing lots of damages.”

Saw Nanda Hsu; Spokesperson Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) told Karen News that the Burma army and its malitia acts are all serious human right violations.

“If the army launched heavy artillery in the village, it violates the rights of local villagers to live in peace. And when it comes to using people as human shields, this is a serious human rights violation. Everyone has the right to live freely and without fear. Using people as human shields is deadly at any time, which is a serious abuse and violation of [their] human rights.” Saw Nanda Hsu said.

Community-based human right groups had reported that in Karen State and other ethnic regions human rights abuses occur on a daily basis. Since the military coup security forces are now terrorizing civilians in urban areas. Due to the increased nationwide-armed conflicts, the United Nation’s estimates more than 200,000 civilians have been displaced creating an urgent need for emergency humanitarian aid – shelter, food, medicine and security.
*Names has been changed for security reasons.

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