Burma Army and Burma Border Guard Force (BGF) troops are obstructing villagers transporting food in Hlaingbwe Township, Karen State, according to local residents.
A local resident who did not want to be named told KIC News that since the end of 2015 a mobile team comprised of troops from Burma Army Light Infantry Division 44 (LID-44) and BGF Battalion 1012 under the command of the Burma Army have been inspecting any food supplies being carried at mobile checkpoints in the more than 30 villages that make up the Kaloo Htaw, Mae Pa Yu and Tha Kwee Kalar village groups in Hlaingbwe Township.
He said: “The main areas [where they check us] are in the upper area of Ka Ma Maung. In some areas, they don’t allow us to carry [food supplies] at all. In some areas, we can only carry them with restrictions.
“Even when we carry them, we can’t carry them as we like. We have to leave them at the BGF checkpoints. They keep records of the locations of our houses and the names of the head of the household. Then, the BGF come to deliver the [food supplies] to our houses.”
Local residents say these actions are designed to cut off food supplies to the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (‘Buddhist’ DKBA), a group that splintered from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) when its leaders, Colonel Saw Kyaw Thet and Colonel Saw San Aung, were expelled from the ‘Benevolent’ DKBA at the end of 2016 for attacking government troops on the Asia Highway.
At the beginning of 2016 the splinter group reverted to their original name of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.
Unfortunately for local villagers the government troops’ obstruction of food supplies has only created problems for them whilst having no effect on the ‘Buddhist’ DKBA.
Local residents from the Mae Tha Waw area of Tha Kwee Kalar Village Group planned to hold a protest against this obstruction of their food supplies on 14 June.
The ‘Buddhist’ DKBA spokesperson Capt Saw Ye Htet told KIC News that the ‘Buddhist’ DKBA would soon be holding a press conference about the issue.
He said: “The residents of the Mae Tha Waw area plan to stage a protest tomorrow [14 June]. They [the Burma Army and the BGF] have been attacking us whenever and wherever they see us, as if they want to kill us. We feel they are using various methods to provoke us so that conflict will start. We plan to hold a press conference about this [issue].”
A commander of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) said that though residents have been facing these problems for a while the government and the Karen National Union (KNU), who signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government, have done nothing to try and resolve the situation.
According to the NCA’s terms and conditions and its military code of conduct the Tatmadaw (Burma Army) and ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) must not impede the small-scale storage, transport, sale and trade of food and supplies.
Troops active in the village groups of Kaloo Htaw, Mae Pa Yu and Tha Kwee Kalar come from: LID-44 and LID-22 of the Burma Army; BGF Battalion 1012; the DKBA; and KNLA Brigades 5 and 7, which are under the KNU.
Translated by Thida Linn
Edited in English by Mark Inkey for BNI