We have previously reported on our Arakan team leader here. In this report, he gives a picture of the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Arakan State. The text is his raw report edited for clarity only.
Notes on Arakan history: Prior to 1784, Arakan (also known as Rakhine) was an independent kingdom including present-day Arakan State and parts of present-day Bangladesh, Chin State and Irrawaddy Division. In 1784,Arakan was conquered by the Burmese King Bodaw Maung Win. In 1826, it was ceded to the British Empire after the First Anglo-Burmese War. It became part of the Union of Burma in 1948 after an agreement between British and Burmese leaders.
|Map showing Arakan State|
Situation of IDPs who have fled
In Burma most IDPs who fled to border areas cannot return to their home because the Burma Army suspects that those IDPs are supporting or linked with ethnic underground groups and may torture or kill villagers. Therefore, most IDPs never return home, they live in jungle or border areas. Sometimes, those villages of IDPs are attacked by Burma Army when IDPs hide in deep jungle, sometimes IDPs must cross a neighboring country’s border. If Burma Army met IDPs in hiding place or village of IDPs, Burma Armies shoot to kill. Burma Armies sometimes burn IDPs villages, take or destroy villagers’ belongings… Inside IDPs’ village or hiding place some women were killed by Burma Armies after raped… And all the time, they are worrying about Burma Army operations, battle between Burma Army and ethnic underground groups and attack by Burma Army to village of IDPs.
Effect of recent election
Now, international communities and some Burmese people are hoping that after Burma election 2010, IDPs and refugees can return but for IDPs the problem is not a democracy problem, IDPs’ problem is civil war between ethnic insurgent grounds and Burmese Army. If in Burma the civil war cannot stop, IDPs cannot return their home village or place.
Forced labor by Burma Army Battalions
Burmese Army built up many Battalions unnecessarily. For one Battalion to build up they must annex more than one hundred acres of villagers’ land and there villagers must give forced labour for everything without any wage such as carrying water to make bricks, carrying bricks to dry and burn, each village have to send firewood to make bricks. Every day over one hundred villagers have to give forced labour at each Battalion to make bricks after carrying rations from home, they must stay at least three days or five days at the camp. Sometimes, villagers got food problem because villagers could not bring enough food from home. Sometimes… villagers must do forced labour 5 days, and some families are very poor so they cannot leave food home and cannot bring enough food. First time Burma Army issue rice for forced labour but later Burma Army does not give any more rice so villagers must do with hunger. Anyone who reports that he is hungry; he is beaten by Burma Army. Anyone who run from working forced labour is arrested then sent to jail one day and beaten with birch branch 6 times when he is sent to jail and 6 times when he is released, total 12 beatings. After he got the 12th beating, he must take a medical injection. Any persons with a fever are also not allow to take rest during daytime work because Burmese Army said that the President of the village should know that before sending him to give forced labour. Burma Army only knows to work everybody. Burma Army does not know fever or any health problem. Burma Army annexes large areas of villagers’ land for agriculture farm to fund the Battalion. But Burma Army does not do anything, only requiring forced labour. Every day two or three villages must to go to give forced labour at the Battalion’s agriculture product farm after bringing food from home but they do not get any wage.
Thank you and God bless you,
the Arakan Free Burma Rangers