June 18, 2021 / KHRG # 21-97-S1
This situational update describes the events that occurred in the four townships of Dooplaya District in March 2021. Officials involved in the civil disobedience movement fled to areas controlled by the KNU to escape persecution. security forces. At the same time, the SAC army has stepped up its activities in the region and declared a curfew. Local villagers now fear fighting could break out due to the increased presence of government soldiers. Demonstrations against the coup were held in every canton of the Dooplaya district. Local villagers plan to organize more protests, but they are unsure how the SAC army will react. On March 9, 2021, DKBA and SAC soldiers prevented around 500 villagers from attending a demonstration in Myawaddy.
Civil disobedience movement
In early March, we learned that people involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) were fleeing to the Dooplaya district to escape torture and murder of soldiers from the State Administration Council (SAC). Many people who joined the CDM came to these townships. They are teachers and doctors. They have to flee because the SAC soldiers are trying to stop and kill them. They fled to the revolutionary zones Karen [to the areas controlled by the Karen National Union – KNU]. More and more people involved in the CDM are coming every day.
As of March 7, 2021, 1,310 officials involved in the MDP had found refuge in the KNU neighborhoods of the Dooplaya district. They are from the Ayeyarwady region, Kawkareik, Mawlamyine and Hpa-an. They worked for the following agencies: Ministry of Health and Sports; Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation; Ministry of Interior (Myanmar Police Force, Fire Department); Ministry of Education; Ministry of Construction; Ministry of Electricity and Energy; Ministry of Transport and Communications; Ministry of Social Protection and Resettlement; Ministry of Defense (military SAC); Ministry of Justice; and Economic Bank of Myanmar. There are also municipal employees, township level staff and village administrators. [General Administration Department].[There could be even more people involved in the CDM in KNU areas]. Some lists of names were not sent [by local administrators] at [KNU] municipality and district [authorities] again [local authorities must report new arrivals of people involved in the CDM to the KNU]. Some of them [people involved in the CDM] are hiding in the villages and the village chiefs have not yet sent their names [to the KNU authorities]. We do not know if more people involved in the CDM will come to our regions.
The SAC army felled bamboo in the village A —, in the village of Pone Yay, in the canton of Kaw T’Ree to reinforce their military camp [KHRG was not able to establish the exact date]. Local villagers told them that SAC soldiers were not allowed to enter restricted areas. [The soldiers did not threaten or do anything to the local villagers but they did not listen to them and trespassed anyway]. Their commander was Aung Zaw Lin, a deputy company commander of Infantry Battalion (IB) No.13, Column No.1.
The SAC army is stepping up its activities in local areas. Since the military coup8, local villagers have seen more SAC soldiers in the jungle or bushes around villages, including in Kheh Hkoh [a place where villagers go to collect T’La Aw leaves], between villages B — and C —, Kyauk Hkee village tract, Kawkareik Township. Therefore, the local villagers are now afraid to go and collect the Ta La Aw leaves.
Since the protests against the military coup began, it has not been easy for patients to go to the hospital [because healthcare staff is participating in the CDM]. They have to buy drugs from outside [at the pharmacy]. One of the children from D — village, Waw Loo village tract, Kaw T’Ree Township had a motorcycle accident. He was sent to the hospital, but there was no one to take care of him, give him medicine, and clean his wounds. [KHRG was not able to establish the exact date of this incident].
Students attending Myanmar public schools have not been able to attend school this year. Since the first wave of COVID-19, they have instead had to work. However, schools of the Karen Department of Education and Culture (KECD) are still open. Local villagers / civilians fear that the fighting [between the SAC military and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)] could burst. They must be living in fear now. Some of them prepare and store food like rice because they fear the situation will return to what it was in the past. [before the 2012 preliminary ceasefire].
We realized that the SAC army had stepped up its activities since March 7, 2021. They patrol at night, but we do not know if they are trying to find and arrest the people who joined the protests; or if they try to find ALKN soldiers and shoot them. This creates concern among the local villagers. The SAC army also sent drones to areas controlled by the KNU. SAC soldiers are now checking people on the main roads. They check people who come to Seikkyi Town, and sometimes they even check their phones. It doesn’t happen every day, but they do surprise checks.
At midnight on March 19, 2021, IB # 32 SAC soldiers fired at a group of Karen Democratic Army (DKBA) soldiers in the town of Kyainseiggyi. DKBA soldiers were in the streets after 9 p.m. despite the curfew. They [SAC soldiers] could not kill any of them, but they arrested one of them. We don’t know what they did to him. The SAC army has declared a curfew. No one can go out after 9 p.m. since March [but not everyone knows about the curfew]. These are just a few of the SAC’s military activities this month [in March].
In reaction to the military coup, demonstrations were organized and held in every commune of the Dooplaya district. The demands of the demonstrators are: 1) Restore democracy; 2) Abolish the military dictatorship; 3) Release the detainees; 4) Abolish the 2008 Constitution; 5) Establish a Federal Union; 6) we don’t want influential nationalism [Burmanisation]; and 7) All ethnic groups must be united.
On March 9, 2021, around 500 villagers from Thay Baw Boe, Maw Hkee and Su Klee villages in Kawkareik County were planning to hold a protest against the military coup in Myawaddy. However, they were stopped by DKBA and SAC soldiers on their way. [to the city], so they could not organize the demonstration in Myawaddy. On the same day, local villagers from Aw Hpa Hpa Doh village, Kawkareik County, staged a protest against the army on the Asia Highway.
Local villagers from Kawkareik Township and Kruh Tuh Township held a protest on March 22, 2021, and they plan to hold more protests in the future. They are going to organize protests in each of these townships on March 25, 2021. We have heard that the SAC soldiers do not want the local villagers to organize protests. Therefore, we do not know what the situation will be on the days of the protests and we will have to monitor it. There are ongoing protests against the army because the local villagers are against the military regime.
Further reading on the protests against the 2021 military coup in southeast Myanmar can be found in the following KHRG reports:
“Mu Traw District Situation Update: Villagers Protest Military Coup in Hpapun and K’Ma Maung Towns, Lu Thaw County, February to March 2021,” June 2021.
“Update of the situation of the district of Mergui-Tavoy: impact of the military coup on the villagers of the cantons of K’Ser Doh, Ler Muh Lah and Ler Doh Soh, February 2021”, May 2021.
“An End to Peace Efforts: Recent Fighting in Doo Tha Htoo District Between ALKN and Tatmadaw Following the 2021 Military Coup in Myanmar (March and April 2021)”, May 2021.