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Damming at gunpoint(English Version)

Papun pre-1992: The

Papun pre-1992: The Salween under Karen control Until the beginning of 1992, the entire area of Papun District adjacent to the Thai-Burma border was controlled by the KNU. The area of Papun District is 6,722.540 sq km (2,595.573 sq miles). Papun District shares a border with Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province, and is adjacent to Thailand’s Salween National Park and Salween Wildlife Sanctuary. To the north, it shares a border with Karenni State. The KNU administration 9 divides the district into three townships: Luthaw, Dwelo and Butho, in accordance with the three main mountain ranges running through Papun District from North to South. The Butho range forms the major part of the western bank of the Salween River on the Karen State border side. The majority of the population are ethnic Karens, with some Shans and other ethnic peoples. The population in 1985 was about 107,000. Natural resources Papun District, including the areas forming the watershed of the Salween River, has vast swathes of teak forest and was known as a ‘Golden Teak’ forest zone. In the British colonial time, it was the main resource for export from Burma, followed by gold and lead. Logging and transport of logs depended mainly on the Salween River. Logs were floated downstream along the Salween. A 90-year-old Karen woman recalled, “In the korla time (British era), there was logging in our area. Logs were floated along the Salween river. Thais also carried out logging on the Thai side”. Interview with villager in Pa Hai Village Tract, September 2003 9 The KNU has Departments of Education, Health, Agriculture, Defense, Justice, Forestry, Customs and Taxation, and Mining. Most of the Papun area was under the KNU administration system prior to 1992. 19

20 DAMMING AT GUNPOINT Some other forest products were also available such as cane and cardamom. Most of the mountain range along the Salween River is covered with monsoon deciduous forest. During the first three decades of the Karen resistance, beginning in 1949, the area was free from commercial logging. However, logging resumed in 1983 on the Salween River bank when the KNU began selling logging concessions to Thai companies. The KNU Forestry Department had the role of making laws related to maintenance of the environment, in accordance with the aspirations of Papun villagers. Regulations covering rotational slash and burn farming, forest fire control, reforestation or replanting of teak forests, and the forbidding of hunting of rare wildlife were drawn up. The KNU Forestry Department arranged for the setting up of a small number of teak plantations as a reforestation program in some areas. The KNU also maintained teak forest reservations in Papun District 10 . These included: the Mae Wai Forest Reservation, Min Nan Nwe Forest Reservation, Htee Kasormae Forest Reservation, Upper Mae Tha Lot Forest Reservation, Lower Mae Tha Lot Forest Reservation, Pa Saung Forest Reservation, Baw Thay Hta Forest Reservation and Dar Gwin Forest Reservation. (See map on page 21) There are three wildlife sanctuaries in the district. Two are designated by the KNU: the Dar Gwin Wildlife Sanctuary adjacent to the Thai Salween National Park, and the Lay Gwor Sanctuary in the western part of the district in Dwelo Township. The remaining one, Kahilu Wildlife Sanctuary, was designated by British in Dwelo Township. Traditionally, each villager in Papun would own a certain area of land allotted to them by the village patron known as the “teepo kawkasa,” 11 who wielded power and influence over the community. These traditional land allocations are still recognized by local villagers. The villagers managed to use 10 The KNU reintroduced the system of designating certain areas as forest reservations which had been practiced during British colonial rule. 11 Literally means “Master of land and people”. After the British introduced the “headman” system in the area in the colonial time, the role of these leaders was retained in spiritual and customary affairs only.

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