Shan Human Rights Foundation

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From July 2014 SHRF will no longer use its’ official contact shrf@cm.ksc.co.th,
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So if you need to contact us in the future please reach us via the later contact.

            Thank you,
                    SHRF

From July 2014 SHRF will no longer use its’ official contact shrf@cm.ksc.co.th , but will change to shanhumanrights@gmail.com . So if you need to contact us in the future please reach us via the later contact.Thank you; SHRF

March - 2011

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COMMENTARY
Forced Labour
Forcible Guide and Porter Services

Among the various types of forced labour imposed on the people by the Burmese military in Shan State over the last 4-5 decades, forced portering has been one of the most rampant.
It has also been the most feared by the people because in addition to the difficult nature of the work, in which the porters were often forced to carry overly heavy loads and forced to walk day and night over difficult terrains for days without enough rest and food, they were also often very badly treated by the Burmese troops.
Gross human rights violations by the troops against the porters, such as killing, beating, torture and even rape, often took place during porter service. Sometimes the porters were forced to go before the troops as minesweepers or covers for the troops.
However, the Burmese military have virtually always denied having used civilian forced labour and tried to hide the facts by giving different names to it, e.g., “voluntary labour”, and lately even “voluntary assistance”.
There has been news that the military authorities have been planning to introduce a law requiring all citizens between certain limits of age to serve in the military. This mandatory military service will help the military in denying the use of civilian labour.
The use of forced civilian porters are still rampant in Shan State, especially in the rural areas, at least until 2010, as reported in this month’s issue.
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VILLAGERS CONSCRIPTED AS UNPAID PORTERS IN NAM-ZARNG
In November 2010, villagers of Loi Saao village in Maak Mong Mon village tract in Nam-Zarng township were forced to serve as unpaid porters for many days by the SPDC troops from the military unit east of the air base in the township.
On 3 November 2010, a patrol of SPDC troops came to Loi Saao village in Maak Mong Mon village tract in Nam-Zarng township and forcibly conscripted 3 male villagers to serve as guides and porters for the military.
The villagers of Loi Saao did not know the number or the name of the military unit from where the SPDC troops had come, but they knew that the troops were from the unit east of the air base because they had seen some of them several times when they had to go and work for them in the past.
Soon after they left the village, one villager was forced to carry rice and beans and 3 pairs of military boots while another one was required to carry 4 rounds of 60 mm mortar shells. The third one had to carry a big pot and 9 small rice containers filled with cooked rice.
The 3 villagers had to go with the patrol of the SPDC troops for many days, carrying one thing or another all the time, as they patrolled the area. Finally, they were released when they reached Kung Mong village in Wan Nawng village tract on 11 November 2010.

VILLAGERS FORCED TO SERVE AS UNPAID PORTERS IN KAE-SEE
In October 2010, villagers of Luk Kud village in Murng Kaao village tract in Kae-See township were forced to serve as unpaid porters for several days by a patrol of SPDC troops from IB286 based in Murng Naang village tract in the same township.
Sometime in late October 2010, a patrol of about 50 SPDC troops from IB286, led by commander Myint Aung, an officer with one star on each of his shoulders, came to Luk Kud village in Murng Kaao village tract early in the morning.
As soon as they got into the village, the SPDC troops suddenly and forcibly seized male villagers in the village and managed to capture 7 of them in a very short time. Later on the same morning the villagers were told to go home and get a spare set of clothes and a shoulder pole (used to carry things) each.
When the villagers went home to get what they had been told, 3 SPDC troops accompanied each of them until they got back to the patrol, to prevent them from trying to escape. The villagers were forced to carry several things and go with the patrol for several days.
The SPDC military patrol went through many villages in Murng Kaao, Ho Khaai and Tong Laao village tracts, until they reached Tong Lao village where they released the 7 civilian porters. Along the way, the SPDC troops were said to have stolen and forcibly taken not less than 100 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) of villagers’ chickens.
There was no regular means of transport for the villagers to return from Tong Lao village back to their village which was quite far away and they were too weak to walk such a long distance after serving as porters for several days. Finally they decided to hire a car to take them back, costing each of them 8,000 kyat.

VILLAGERS FORCIBLY SEIZED AND USED AS UNPAID PORTERS IN NAM-ZARNG
In September 2010, villagers of Nam Zer and Kaab Saang villages in Kaad Lur village tract in Nam-Zarng township were forcibly seized and forced to serve as unpaid porters by locally based SPDC troops for several days.
On 8 September 2010, a patrol of SPDC troops, comprising troops from different units based in Nam-Zarng township, came to Nam Zer village in Kaad Lur village tract in Nam-Zarng township and told the village headman to provide them with 4 civilian porters from his village, and another 4 from a nearby village, Kaab Saang.
The SPDC troops said that if the headman could not provide the porters, they would search and seize the villagers themselves, and waited in the village until evening. As the headman could not yet find enough male villagers whose turns were due to provide forced labour, he was reluctant to take them to the troops.
The SPDC troops then became angry and started to seize the villagers themselves. However, since there were not so many male villagers in the village, and those villagers also ran away at the sight of the troops, they managed to catch only 2 men, Zaai Awn, aged 28 and Nan-Daw, aged 30 (not their real names).
Taking the 2 villagers with them, the SPDC troops went to Kaab Saang village and managed to seize 3 more male villagers who were not fast enough to get away. The 5 villagers were then forced to carry military things and go with the troops as they left the village on the same evening.
The villagers were forced to go with the military patrol for 4 days and nights, having to carry one thing or another all the time, as they patrolled the areas of Kaad Lur and Nawng Hee village tracts. They were released when they reached Nam Wo village in Nawng Hee village tract.

VILLAGERS FORCED TO SERVE AS UNPAID PORTERS IN KAE-SEE, KUN-HING AND MURNG-SU
In late 2010, villagers in Long Yaan village tract in Kae-See township were forced to serve as unpaid porters for 5 days by SPDC troops of IB66 and IB287 during their joint patrol in Kae-See, Kun-Hing and Murng-Su townships.
On 4 September 2010, 2 separate patrols of SPDC troops from IB66, based in Nam-Zarng township, and IB287, based in Kae-See township, met at Naa Lin Leng village in Long Yaan village tract in Kae-township and combined their forces into a single patrol.
The joint patrol, about 50 strong, then set out to Kung Nyawng village in the same village tract and conscripted 2 villagers, Nan-Da (m), aged 41 and Zaai Aw (m), aged 37, to serve as unpaid porters. The 2 villagers were forced to carry rice and other food stuff and go with the patrol.
The next day, 5 September 2010, the said SPDC military patrol reached a Palaung village, Urk Mu, also in Loong Yaan village tract, and conscripted 4 more villagers to serve as unpaid porters. The villagers were Zaai Awng (m), aged 28, Zaai Ngern (m), aged 36, Paw Naam Khawng (m), 47 and Paw Saang Saam (m), aged 46.
The 6 villagers were forced to carry many things, including food stuff, pots and pans, and clothes, etc., and go with the SPDC troops as they continued to patrol the areas which included parts of all the said 3 townships. From Long Yaan village tract in Kae-See to the areas of Nam Tawd and Nam Len villages in Kun-Hing, and then to Murng Zaang village tract in Murng-Su township.
Finally, after patrolling for 5 whole days, the SPDC troops arrived at Nam Lan village in Nawng Tao village tract in Kae-See township where they released the 6 civilian porters. The villagers were simply told that they could go without being given anything, and they had to find their own means to return to their village.

VILLAGERS FORCED TO SERVE AS UNPAID PORTERS IN NAM-ZARNG
In August 2010, villagers in Wan Nawng village tract in Nam-Zarng township were forced to serve as unpaid porters for several days by the SPDC troops from LIB579 and IB248 who had come from their bases in Murng-Nai township.
On 8 August 2010, a patrol of combined forces of SPDC troops from Murng-Nai-based LIB579 and IB248, numbering about 70 in all, came to Kung Sa village in Wan Nawng village tract in Nam-Zarng township.
The SPDC troops forcibly conscripted 7 villagers from Kung Sa to serve as unpaid porters to carry military things and set out to patrol the area of Wan Nawng village tract. After 3 days, the SPDC troops released the civilian porters at Kung Mong village in the same village tract.
On the same day, 11 August 2010, the SPDC troops conscripted 3 villagers from Kung Mong village to replace the porters they had just released. The villagers were Zaai Aw (m), aged 43, Kun-Na (m), aged 40 and Zaai Saw (m), aged 36.
The villagers were forced to carry military things and go with the SPDC troops as they continued to patrol the rural areas of Nam-Zarng township. They were forced to go with the troops for 6 whole days and were finally released at Mong Mon village near Nam-Zarng town.
The SPDC troops continued into Nam-Zarng town, leaving the 3 villagers at Mong Mon village without giving them anything or arranging anything for their return journey. Their village was quite far and the villagers would have to beg for food and a sleeping place if they could not find any means of transport on the same day.
Fortunately, there was a tractor from Wan Nawng, the main village of their village tract, returning from town on that day, and the villagers managed to get back to their village, Kung Mong, on the same day after they were allowed to ride the tractor back to Wan Nawng village.

VILLAGERS FORCED TO SERVE AS UNPAID PORTERS IN MURNG-KERNG
In July and August 2010, villagers of Wan Loi Phraa Khe in Yaang Loi village tract in Murng-Kerng township were forced to carry ammunition for several days by a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB514.
On 29 July 2010, a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB514 came to Wan Loi Phraa Khe in Yaang Loi village in Murng-Kerng township and stopped in the village as if to spend the night. However, at nightfall, at about 8:30 p.m., the troops suddenly packed up their things and prepared to leave the village.
At the same time, some of the troops surrounded some houses and seized 3 villagers to go with them and serve as unpaid porters. The SPDC troops left Wan Loi Phraa Khe village at about 10 o’clock on that night, heading east.
The said 3 villagers returned to their village after being taken away by the SPDC troops for about a week. According to them, they were forced to serve as guides as well as porters at the same time and go with the patrol day and night.
The porters were required to carry ammunition, weighing about 20 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) for each of them, and go with the military patrol to show the troops the way when necessary. They were not allowed to carry water with them, to prevent them from trying to escape, and had to ask for it from the troops every time they needed to drink.

VILLAGERS ROUTINELY FORCED TO SERVE AS GUIDES AND PORTERS IN LARNG-KHUR
During the second half of 2010, villagers of Nawng Tawng Law and Nawng Oi villages in Wan Zid village tract in Larng-Khur township were forced to serve as guides and porters every 3-4 days by the SPDC troops from LIB578.
In July 2010, a contingent of about 35 SPDC troops from LIB578 was deployed at Nawng Tawng Law village in Wan Zid village tract in Larng-Khur township, to patrol the areas where a railway line would be constructed sometime in the future.
Every 3-4 days, some of the SPDC troops set out to patrol the surrounding areas, taking with them at least 3 villagers to serve as guides and porters every time. The patrolling usually took 2 days and 1 night each time during which the troops and the porters had to spend a night in the jungle.
Villagers of Nawng Tawng Law and Nawng Oi had to work in rotation to fulfil this routine forced labour duty which was so frequent that many villagers found it difficult to find time to work for their own survival.
Besides this, it was imposed on them without lifting any other existing forced labour duties. It was still continuing when this report was received by SHRF field workers near the end of 2010.

VILLAGERS FORCED TO SERVE AS GUIDES, THREATENED, MONEY EXTORTED, IN NAM-ZARNG
In mid 2010, villagers were forced to serve as unpaid guides and money was extorted from the villagers of Paang Nim village in Paang Nim village tract in Nam-Zarng township by the SPDC troops of IB246 who also threatened to punish the villagers if they were to be attacked during their patrol.
On 13 May 2010, a patrol of SPDC troops from Kun-Hing-based IB246 came by a military truck to Paang Nim village in Paang Nim village tract in Nam-Zarng township, and ordered the village leader to collect money for them from the villagers.
Each household was required to provide 1,500 kyat of money and there were about 90 households in Paang Nim village. After receiving the demanded money, the SPDC troops ordered the village leader to find 2 villagers for them to be used as skillful guides.
The guides, said the SPDC troops, needed to be the ones who had lived in the area long enough to know the ways and the situations well, and to guide them along the routes that were safe. If they were to be attacked by the enemies during the patrol, the villagers would be held responsible, threatened the troops.
To meet the SPDC troops’ demand, the leader of a nearby village, Wan Mai Kung Pao, had to find 2 middle aged men to do the job. The 2 villagers were Maa-Laa, aged 37 and Kan-Na, aged 38, who knew all the ways in the area well.
As they set out on their journey, the SPDC troops again warned the villagers, especially the 2 guides, not to let the news of their movement spread. No one was to know in advance to which village they were heading or which village they would arrive at. If something went wrong on the way, the village leaders and their relatives would also be held responsible, they said.
After 3 days of patrolling, the SPDC troops arrived at one of the military bases at Kun Mong village in Kaeng Tawng sub-township in Murng-Nai township where they released the 2 civilian guides, who considered themselves lucky for not getting into any big problems on the way.

VILLAGERS FORCED TO SERVE AS GUIDES AND PORTERS IN KUN-HING
In April 2010, villagers of Kaeng Kham village in Kaeng Kham village tract Kun-Hing township were forced to serve as guides and porters by a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB524 who also conscripted civilian tractors and stole villagers’ chickens.
On 19 April 2010, a patrol of about 40 SPDC troops from LIB524 came by 2 conscripted civilian tractors from Kali village tract to Kaeng Kham village tract and stopped at Nam Kham village on the eastern bank of the Nam Paang river, opposite Kaeng Kham village.
At Nam Kham village, the SPDC troops forcibly conscripted villagers’ boats and crossed to the other side of Nam Paang river where Kaeng Kham village was situated. They brought with them enough rations and other food stuff for several days.
The troops stopped to spend the night at a public pavilion at the village Buddhist temple. During the night, some of the troops went around the village and stole villagers’ chickens, some of which they cooked and ate with their morning meal the next day.
Sometime in the late morning 20 April 2010, the troops seized 3 villagers who were passing by the pavilion and told them to help the military by serving as their guides. However, as soon as they got outside the village, the villagers were forced to also serve as porters.
One of them had to carry pots and pans and food stuff and the other 2 were forced to carry boxes of ammunition until they reached Wo Long village in Son Saang village tract where they were released.

VILLAGERS FORCED TO BE ON STANDBY FOR GUIDE AND PORTER SERVICE IN KAE-SEE
In late 2010, villagers of Murng Naang village tract in Kae-See township were forced by the SPDC troops of IB286 to stay in wait at their miliary camp 24 hours a day to be ready to serve as guides when necessary.
Since September up to the end of 2010 when this report was received, villagers from villages situated west of Murng Naang village were required to take turns to go and stay at the military camp for 3 days and 3 nights, at least one villager at a time.
The villagers had to do it that way so that at least one villager was always present at the military camp and could serve as a guide when necessary, while other villagers did not have to worry about it until their turns came.
A somewhat similar incident also took place earlier in Wan Zing village tract, in the same township, where another SPDC military unit, IB287, was based. The following report was received around mid 2010.
In April 2010, villagers of Wan Zing village tract in Kae-See township were forced by the SPDC troops of IB287 to stay in wait at their military camp for 3 days and nights to serve as porters when necessary.
On 24 April 2010, the village tract headman of Wan Zing village tract in Kae-See township was summoned by the SPDC military authorities of IB287 to the military camp in Wan Zing tract. The SPDC troops said that they wanted 8 civilian porters and told the headman to send them to the camp in a few days time.
The civilian porters would be kept on standby in the camp for a few days and would be replaced with a new group if necessary, and villagers who could not discharge their duty personally on their turn could hire civilian Burmans and Lahu villagers that were readily available, they said.
Accordingly, on 26 April 2010, 3 villagers of Nam Hu village, 3 of Saai Ket and 2 of Luk Lur, altogether 8 villagers, were required by the headman to go to the military camp and were told that they could hire people there if they wanted.
Because they did not want to stay at the military camp for fear of abuses by the SPDC troops, villagers of Nam Hu and Saai Ket decided to hire the said people to fill their place, at the rate of 10,000 kyat per person per day.
The 2 villagers of Luk Lur, however, decided to go personally and they had to stay at the military camp for 3 days and nights with the other hired porters, without having to go anywhere else except to do some menial work in the camp during the day.