Continued influx of rural people from southern Shan State, more than half a year after ceasefire agreements were signed proves that the much vaunted reforms are only in urban areas but not in the countryside, according to aid workers on the border.
“From Maehongson to Chiangmai and Chiangrai, at least 1,000 people each month are fleeing into Thailand,” said one of the aid workers on the Chiangmai border. “The number of people coming to where I work alone averages 250 people per month. It isn’t different from last year’s.”
Migrants range from those in Mongkeung, Laikha, Namzang, Kunhing, Langkher and Mongpan townships where the Shan State Army (SSA) South is active and those from Kehsi and Monghsu townships where its sister organization the SSA North is active.
The ceasefire agreement with the SSA South, led by Lt-Gen Yawdserk, was signed on 2 December 2011, and with the SSA North, led by Lt-Gen Pang Fa, on 28 January 2012.
One reason is that the agreement has not stopped the two sides from fighting. Both factions have reported that each have so far been forced to fight no less than 30 engagements.
“Although the Burmese troops said they had stopped fighting the Shan resistance troops, they were still roaming the rural areas and even reinforcing their troops at some places so that people dared not yet go back to work their farms and fields,” wrote border based Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) in its August report. “They (the displaced Shans coming to the border) said they came to find their relatives who were already working in Thailand in hope of getting some means of survival. They simply had no choice because they could no longer earn enough to survive by remaining in their villages.”
Reasons cited by them mostly were not different (getting worse in some cases) from earlier reports:
- Kehsi, Mongkeung, Laikha and Namzang townships (Forcible conscription of guides and porters, forced labor, extortion, conscription of villagers’ vehicles for transportation, forcing villagers to provide different kinds of foodstuff, killing villagers’ buffaloes for food)
- Monghsu and Mongnai townships (land confiscation, destruction of the environment such as water sources by companies)
- Laikha and Kunhing townships (Forced recruitment for government-supported People’s Militia Forces)
In Monghsu, military authorities sold the confiscated land to a mining company “to extract some kind of minerals” and as a result, three mountain steams in the area, which had served as a water sources had become dirty and unusable, because the company used the water upstream to wash the earth and stones they had dug out, reported SHRF.
In addition, the company had brought in more than 10,000 ethnic Burman workers from lower Burma to work for the company and other projects, leaving little room for locals to take up any job.
In Mongnai, the Burmese military brought in many Lahu villagers from Kehsi township to settle down and serve as militias to the Burma Army. Rice fields in the area were confiscated by the Burma Army and given to the Lahu in order to support them with a means of livelihood.
“It is quite difficult, and even more so for newcomers like us who have no documents to get decent jobs with reasonable pay (in Thailand),” one of the arrivals as quoted as saying. “But we simply have no better alternatives.”