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Tatmadaw expanding presence, says Karenni NGO

A new report has accused the Burmese military of increasing its presence in Karenni State, contrary to regional ceasefire agreements.

Friday’s report from the Karenni Civil Society Network (KCSN) states that the Tatmadaw (the Burmese government military forces) has been “reinforcing its troops, expanding outposts, storing supplies and ammunition, and confiscating and staking off land for the army.”

Burma had agreed to limit its military presence in the region under a 2012 ceasefire agreement with the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and other armed ethnic groups who have been fighting for independence.

“In a lot of areas we have land confiscations by the military, so it’s very, very difficult for the peace process and the ceasefire to continue,” said Khu Mi Reh, a KCSN coordinator.

“Some of the people in the communities want humanitarian aid, but we need to look at the political situation because this now is not genuine peace,” he told DVB on Monday. “If we want to provide humanitarian aid to the community we need to generate a peace between the government and the armed groups.”

The KNPP and other armed ethnic groups have been fighting the government since Burma became an independent country in 1948. A ceasefire was announced in 2012 during Burma’s transition from military to civilian government, though the report comes at a time of renewed attention of the military’s influence in Burma.

The report highlights the Burmese army confiscating 3,000 acres of land to build the No.14 military training school, in an area which “had been used by farmers for generations by local people”.

“The local people demanded that the building be stopped, but their pleas fell on deaf ears and construction of the training school was completed. Now there have already been two trainings held at the school for commanders from the front lines, soldiers and militia,” the report says. This is one example of where the Burmese military and the local population have been at odds, it says, and lists the affect on everyday lives such as the fear of landmines which have been placed around the area.

“Some do not risk going out for the landmines,” said Mi Reh, expanding on how Burmese troops deliberately interfere with the lives of locals on a regular basis. “They say: ‘If you want to use this road you must pay’. But there’s no reason to pay the military: they don’t control this road. But they [demand] money for the roads, and if they go to the farms they ask a lot of questions from the people – like ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘What are you doing?’.

“The people never received services, like health or education, from the government,” said Mi Reh. “Most of the people are just farming and trying to support their families and their children. We just want the government to create a genuine peace and trust, and provide the humanitarian aid.”