The Arakan Free Burma Rangers team has documented widespread forced labor and extortion in their mission area during October, 2009
|Area of report (click for larger image)
The team interviewed villagers in Paletwa Township who testified to forced labor in constructing the army camp at Doechawnwa, as well as having to provide bamboo and other building materials. (Paletwa is in southern Chin state, but is an area populated by Arakan, Chin and other ethnic groups. Some Arakan consider it part of Arakan State).
A village secretary described how people from his village had to provide forced labor to Kamtalam and Doechawnwa Army Camps at least twice a month. This involves building the camp, carrying water, cooking or doing other tasks without payment. FBR teams took photos of orders from Burma Army units demanding villagers carry out such work. The villagers are also sometimes beaten by the soldiers. They also have to supply chickens and other livestock without payment to the camp as well as paying for a boat to transport army rations. Villagers in this area are still struggling with the food crisis caused by the flowering of the bamboo plant, a once every 50 years cycle which causes a huge increase in the rat population which then devours rice crops.
A 25-year-old villager told how he shared a meal with Burma Army soldiers only to be told in the morning he had joined the army. He was sent to Sittwe, then on to Foundkree Military Training Camp before managing to run away. He said: “Until now, I am running from home. Sometimes I return home in secret and meet with my wife and daughter. When I hear that my wife and daughter are not well, I miss them very much.”
One villager, 53, explained that because of the food shortage, he and his wife and three children had to leave their village. He said they were given 24kg of food aid last year, but this year, he was told he had to repay 280kg of paddy rice. The villager was told that if he did not repay the rice, he would be arrested.
Another villager, 63, a Buddhist with five children, said: “I fled from Burma due to Arakan Liberation Army and SPDC attacks, forced labor and SPDC oppression. Now, I cannot return to Burma because I am afraid of being killed by the Burma Army. Due to rats eating rice, we have a food crisis and we have other problems with security, our health and our children’s education. If the situation in Burma changes, I will return home. I like my home village and need to go back, but here we do not have any chance to see development.”
FBR has copies of the letters to village headmen from the Burma Army or Village Peace and Development Councils demanding forced labor and supplies. These letters detail the labor or material that is to be supplied as well as stating that if these are not given, then villagers will be punished. There are also demands for militia units to be raised with each soldier having to provide 12,000 kyat (approx US$12). The Burma Army units involved are Light Infantry Battalions 2, 263 and 234.
|Letter to village headmen from the Burma Army or Village Peace and Development Councils demanding forced labor and supplies
The order dated October 11 reads: “From your village, the headman and a person who must be a road expert, must come by order of the Battalion commander. Therefore, you and a person must come to Deochawnwa on October 12 at 10am. If they fail to arrive, the headman will be held responsible.”
Commander of Army Camp
|FBR team member giving medical assistance to IDP children.
|Good Life Club in Arakan State
|FBR team member giving medical assistance to IDP twins.