The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) has been collaborating with ethnic community-based organisations to document the characteristics of internal displacement in eastern Burma since 2002. This year's research updates estimates of the scale and distribution of internal displacement, and documents the impacts of militarization and state-sponsored development, based on quantitative surveys with key informants in 38 townships. Trends relating to vulnerability, coping strategies and efforts at promoting protection were assessed by utilizing a multi-stage cluster sampling method to select and interview almost 1,000 households spread across six states and divisions.
This year's survey has identified 273 infantry and light infantry battalions active in eastern Burma, representing more than 30% of the Burmese Army's battalions nationwide. These troops are generally controlled by the State Peace and Development Council's (SPDC's) Coastal Command based in Mergui, South Eastern Command in Moulmein, Southern Command in Taungoo, Eastern Command in Taunggyi and Triangle Area Command in Keng Tung. Documentation in this report reflects that human rights violations committed by the Burmese Army as part of their counter-insurgency strategy are tantamount to crimes against humanity and remain a key cause of displacement. However, even the SPDC's military hierarchy has admitted that poor troop management, inadequate rations and harsh conditions resulted in low morale and an 8% increase in desertion during the past year.
Rather than alleviating poverty, state-sponsored development initiatives primarily facilitate the consolidation of military control over rural communities and induce displacement. Local livelihoods in areas surrounding proposed hydro-electric dams along the Salween River have been further undermined during the past year, with additional troop deployments to the Hutgyi dam site in Karen State during September particularly notable. Similarly, the livelihoods of Mon villagers continue to be undermined by the imposition of forced labour to secure the gas pipeline transporting electricity to Thailand. The government's promotion of castor oil plantations has become more systematic, with reports of land confiscation, extortion and forced cultivation especially significant in Southern Shan State. Palm oil and rubber plantations operated as joint ventures between local Burmese Army commanders and foreign investors have caused similar problems in Tenasserim Division, Meanwhile over 3,000 acres of farm land was confiscated in northern Karenni State to pave the way for an industrial estate.
Approximately 76,000 people were forced to leave their homes as a result of, or in order to avoid, the effects of armed conflict and human rights abuses during the past year. The number of people displaced was slightly lower than last year, which was primarily related to a relaxation of restrictions in Tenasserim Division. Forced migration was most concentrated in northern Karen State and eastern Pegu Division where counter-insurgency operations displaced approximately 43,000 civilians. While the total number of deaths in these four townships is unknown, at least 38 villagers have been killed by the Burmese Army during 2007 in Thandaung township alone.
TBBC has previously reported that more than 3,000 villages were destroyed, forcibly relocated or otherwise abandoned in eastern Burma between 1996 and 2006. These field reports have recently been corroborated by high resolution commercial satellite imagery taken before and after the villages were displaced. Visual evidence includes the removal of structures from villages that were forcibly relocated, and burn scars where destroyed villages used to be. During the past year, at least 167 more entire villages have been displaced.
Internal displacement in eastern Burma, however, is more commonly associated with the coerced movements of smaller groups rather than entire villages. This relates to impoverishment and forced migration caused by the confiscation of land, asset stripping, forced procurement policies, agricultural production quotas, forced labour, arbitrary taxation, extortion and restrictions on access to fields and markets. The compulsory and unavoidable nature of these factors is distinct from the voluntary profit-oriented, "pull-factors" more commonly associated with economic migration.
The total number of internally displaced persons who have been forced or obliged to leave their homes and have not been able to return or resettle and reintegrate into society is estimated to be at least half a million people. This displaced population includes 295,000 people currently in the temporary settlements of ceasefire areas administered by ethnic nationalities. A further 99,000 civilians are estimated to be hiding from the SPDC in areas most affected by military skirmishes, while approximately 109,000 villagers have followed SPDC eviction orders and moved into designated relocation sites.
While the overall figures are comparable to last year, lower estimates for relocation sites primarily reflect villagers' attempts at returning to former villages or resettling nearby in Tenasserim Division and Shan State. However, it is not known how sustainable these movements will be, while SPDC campaigns to forcibly relocate and consolidate villages have intensified in northern Karen State, eastern Pegu Division and northern Mon state. Higher estimates for the internally displaced in ethnic ceasefire areas are largely attributed to the expansion of authority exercised by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the newly formed KNU/KNLA Peace Council and subsequent instability in central Karen State. A slight population increase reported from hiding sites reflects the protracted emergency for the most vulnerable communities in eastern Burma
A feature of this report is the inclusion of trend assessments which have been derived from comparisons to findings from previous household surveys conducted by TBBC and partner agencies over the past few years. In terms of vulnerability, the prevalence of threats to personal safety and security has increased, and in particular the incidence of arbitrary arrest or detention and forced conscription to porter military supplies. Indicators suggest that restrictions on movement to fields and markets have almost doubled to become the most pervasive threat to livelihoods, ahead of forced labour and arbitrary taxation. Violence against women, and in particular the threat of domestic violence and physical assault, was perceived as most prevalent in relocation sites and mixed administration areas where Burmese Army troops are in close proximity...
Autores y editores
The Border Consortium (TBC), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, is an alliance of partners working together with displaced and conflict-affected people of Burma/Myanmar to address humanitarian needs and to support community-driven solutions in pursuit of peace and development.
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The Online Burma/Myanmar Library (OBL) is a non-profit online research library mainly in English and Burmese serving academics, activists, diplomats, NGOs, CSOs, CBOs and other Burmese and international actors. It is also, of course, open to the general public.