Thursday, February 26, 2009

Displaced villagers flee to border

Aizawl, Feb 26 : Forced relocation continues to devastate the lives of local villagers in Tavoy District, southern Burma according to a refugee family which just arrived on the Thai-Burma border.

Since January this year, sporadic fighting between the Burmese Army and Karen National Union (KNU) has left rural villagers of Nyaung Done, Metta Sub-township effectively prisoners in their own village.

Permission was granted to leave by Lt. Col Ye Yint Naing of Infantry Battalion No. 103. However it was for just three days and was under extenuating circumstances – villagers had to complete their paddy harvest. Further, leave was only granted after a pig worth approximately100, 000 Kyat was offered to him.

These controlled movement restrictions and relocations are not new to the region. This time last year the Burmese Army forced Kami villagers to move into Nyang Done village and about 60 of 400 households were uprooted.

"Even though they (the Burmese Army) offer each household a plot of land to build a new house, we had to leave our old land and livelihood and try to make a new life. They don't allow us to return to our farms that some of us have spent so long cultivating and we face constant hurdles just to survive from day-to-day. That is why we have to flee from our country to Thailand,” said the head of the refugee family.

The area they have fled from is located along the proposed route of the Asia Highway Kanchanaburi-Tavoy Road Project. The joint project by the Kyaw Lynn Naing Company and Kanchanaburi Tavoy Development (KTD) began in 1997, but has stalled due to the fighting between the Burmese Army and the KNU.

The Brigade 55 and Marine Command of the Burmese Army and Brigade No. 4 of KNU were engaged in fighting in the areas where 10 villages were relocated and 17 others were destroyed, effecting the rural population of approximately 7,000 people.

A further setback to people in the region is it’s marking as a ‘black area’ or killing zone; several villagers have been arrested, tortured or killed by the Burmese Army during military operations.


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