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June- 2011

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COMMENTARY: ILO Should Apply More Pressure
Recently there has been news about a dramatic increase in the number of complaints about the use of forced labour being lodged with the ILO liaison office in Burma against the Burmese military authorities by the people, probably owing to increased public awareness about the problem, according to the ILOs Burma liaison officer.
The ILO has been launching extensive awareness raising activities, including the distribution of a Burmese-language brochure explaining the law which the officer thought to be the main driver behind the rise in complaints.
However, even though there has been some increase in the number of complaints, it is still far too small compared to the size of the real problem, and very few of the complaints have actually been, or expect to be, solved.
The use of unpaid civilian forced labour has been unabated up until the beginning of this year as reported in this months newsletter, and there has not yet been any indication that it would reduce in the near future, let alone be eliminated.
While the efforts of the ILO has been appreciable, there seemed to be a lack of sincere cooperation on the part of the Burmese military authorities in attempting to eliminate the use of forced labour.
As the government of Burma has now claimed to be civilian and democratic, true or false notwithstanding, the ILO should put more pressure on the authorities to work towards eliminating forced labour.
The use of civilians as unpaid porters and guides is still widespread in Shan State, especially during military patrols of the rural areas.
In many cases the villagers who had been conscripted to serve as guides were also often forced to carry things and serve as porters soon after they left the places where they were conscripted.
In addition, the patrolling troops almost always extorted money and belongings from the villages they stopped at or passed through.
The following are some of such instances:

In early 2011, villagers of Wan Eet in Murng Naang village tract in Kae-See township were forcibly arrested, tied up and detained for one night, and forced to serve as unpaid porters for several days by the Burmese army troops of IB286.
On January 2011, sometime in the late afternoon, a patrol of SPDC troops from IB286 came to Wan Eet village in Murng Naang village tract in Kae-See township and surrounded the village, frightening the villagers and causing them to run away.
However, the SPDC troops were able to round up some of them and forcibly seized 7 male villagers, whom they tied up with ropes, with their hands behind their backs, and kept with them as they spent the night in the village.
During the early part of the night, many SPDC troops went around the village and stole many villagers chickens before they went to sleep. Early in the morning, the troops left the village, forcing the 7 villagers to go with them as unpaid porters.
For 4 whole days, the villagers were forced to carry heavy loads with little rest and were not given enough food. During the nights, they had to sleep on bare ground with no blankets. However, they were allowed to make a small fire and slept around it for the nights were very cold.
The 7 victims were: Ai Awng, aged 38, Ai Kha, aged 27, Ai Thun, aged 44, Ai Soi, aged 37, Ai Man, aged 33, Ai Phong, aged 47 and Ai Mu, aged 50. All of them were forcibly seized to serve as porters and given no chance to take any necessary things with them.
In late 2010, many villagers from Wan Yurng village tract in Lai-Kha township and Murng Laang village tract in Ho-Pong township were forced to serve as unpaid porters for many weeks by a patrol of the Burmese army troops from several units based in Lai-Kha.
Sometime in late September and early October 2010, a column of about 150 Burmese army troops forcibly conscripted about 40 villagers from all the villages in Wan Yurng village tract in Lai-Kha township and patrol the areas adjacent Ho-Pong township.
At one point, the Burmese troops came to Lerng Yok village in Murng Laang village tract in Ho-Pong township and forcibly conscripted 13 more male villagers to serve as porters. Among the newly conscripted porters there was a villager named Lung Man (not his real name), aged about 40.
According to Lung Man, he was forced to carry various things, including munition, food stuff and clothes, and go with the military patrol day and night. Occasionally, the troops released some porters and conscripted some more from different villages.
However, after about 30 days of portering and there was still no sign of him being released, Lung Man secretly escaped, risking his life, because he could not bear the hardship any longer. He said conscription of unpaid civilian porters in his area by the military has increased during 2010.

In late November 2010, villagers of Loi La village tract in Nam-Zarng township were conscripted to serve as guides by the Burmese troops from IB248 for 3 days and 2 nights, during which the troops extorted livestock and food stuff from several villages in the area.
On 24 November 2010, a patrol of about 50 Burmese troops from IB248, based in Murng-Nai township, came to Loi La village tract in Nam-Zarng township and conscripted 6 villagers to serve as guides, 2 from each of the following villages: Kaeng Kham Awn, Phaa Sawnt and Paang Sa.
On that day, the troops patrolled the areas east of Kaeng Kham Awn village, along the western foot  of Loi Kherm mountain range, using the villagers as their guides. In the evening they returned to Kaeng Kham Awn village to spent the night.
During the night, for the troops consumption, Kaeng Kham Awn villagers were forced to provide 2 khwaai (about 1 bushel) of husked non-sticky rice and a pig, weighing about 30 viss (1 viss = 1.6 kg) and worth not less than 120,000 kyat in the market.
On 25 November 2010, the troops patrolled the areas south of Paang Sa village and extorted 5 viss of chickens, worth about 25,000 kyat, from the villagers of Paang Sa, before they continued to patrol the area of Phaa Sawnt village.
At Phaa Sawnt village, where they stopped to spend the night, the troops extorted from the villagers 1 khwaai of husked non-sticky rice and 5 viss of cooking oil, worth about 30,000 kyat. The villagers were also forced to provide a pig, weighing about 40 viss and worth 160,000 kyat.
The next day, 26 November 2010, the troops continued to Kho Lam village in Kho Lam village tract where they released the 6 civilian guides. It was learned that the leaders of the respective villages had to later collect money from their villagers to compensate those who lost their food stuff and livestock.
During late 2010 and early 2011, the Burmese army troops of LIB577 have required villagers in Murng-Pan and Larng-Khur townships to be on 24-hour standby to serve as guides when necessary, at the military base in Murng-Pan township.
The base of LIB577 was located in Naa Law village tract in Murng-Pan township. As Naa Law village tract was adjacent to Terng Kwaang and Wan Zid village tracts in Larng-Khur township, villagers from those areas were also required to come and serve at the said military base.
At least 4 persons had to be on standby at the military base at any given time ready to serve as guides. Those persons also had to be the ones who knew the areas well so that they could lead the Burmese troops through secret routes and shortcuts when necessary.
Since there were not so many such persons in Naa Law village tract in Murng-Pan township alone, adjoining village tracts like Terng Kwaang and Wan Zid also had to provide such knowledgeable persons so that they could take turns and work in rotation.
It was learned that, at a time, 2 persons from Murng-Pan and 2 persons from Larng-Khur were required to stay at the military base for a period of 2 days or 48 hours, after which they were replaced by a new batch of villagers.
Many villagers who lived far away from the military base could not go to it on foot and had to use other means of transport for which they had to pay with their own money. All of them received no remuneration for their money, time and labour.

During late 2010 and early 2011, the Burmese army troops of LIB360 have required villagers in Murng Pu Long village tract in Murng-Paeng township to provide unpaid civilian porters, and extorted money, on a regular basis.
At least 3 times per month, each village in Murng Pu Long village tract had to provide 3 villagers to go and serve as unpaid porters, either carrying things and going with military patrols or staying on standby at the military camp.
Money was also extorted from the villagers by the troops several times per month for many reasons, including football games and other social events and activities. Each household was required to spend from 10,000 kyat up to 40,000 kyat per month in accordance with their social and economic status.


According to the local villagers in Kae-See township, during 2010, Burmese army troops have regularly conscripted civilian guides when they patrolled the rural areas in the township, and also almost always forced them to carry things and serve as porters.
For instance, during September and October 2010, when a Burmese army military column patrolled the area of Naa Kaw village tract in Kae-See township, they took 5 civilian guides at every village they passed through, occasionally releasing some other guides they had previously taken from other villages.
Although the villagers were said to have been conscripted to serve as guides, after they were out of sight of the villages where they were taken, they were always forced to carry things and serve as porters. It was as if the Burmese troops simply used the word guides when they actually conscripted porters.
The use of mass forced labour of the people by the SPDC authorities in building and maintaining state infrastructure was still widespread up to the end of 2010.
The following are some such incidents:


For several weeks, during October and November 2010, villagers of several village tracts in Lai-Kha township were forced to work in renovating and maintaining military camps by the Burmese army troops and members of a ceasefire group.
There were 2 military camps, located close to each other, at a place called Nam Hu Phyaa Tham in Naa Poi village tract in Lai-Kha township. One of the camps was occupied by about 45 Burmese army troops of IB64 and the other by members of a ceasefire group.
In early October 2010, villagers of Naa Poi, Wan Saang, Wan Thi and Kaang Un village tracts in Lai-Kha township were required by the authorities to renovate the said 2 military camps. Villagers also had to provide vehicles, including tractors and ox-cards, to carry building materials for the renovation work.
Apart from having to clear all the existing trenches and bunkers, the villagers had to dig more new ones for both camps so that they completely surrounded them. The tops of the bunkers had to be reinforced with 2 layers of thick logs.
Three layers of new fences were also required to be built by the villagers around the 2 military camps, to replace the old fences that were damaged by harsh weather and insects, and had to be completely removed.
All the building materials which could be obtained in the surrounding areas were required to be gathered by the villages and transported to the camps using their own means of transport, e.g., mini-tractors and ox-carts.
The villagers received nothing for their time and labour, but had to use their own tools, and provide their own food and fuel for their tractors. They had been working on a daily basis for about a month, and the work was still far from complete, when this report was received in November 2010.

For several days in late October and early November 2010, mass forced labour of the people in several village tracts in Lai-Kha township were used to fix and clear the sides of a main road by the military authorities of IB64.
On 27 October 2010, the Burmese military authorities of Lai-Kha-based IB64 ordered villagers of Wan Saang, Wan Thi and Paang Saang village tracts to fix and clear the sides of the main road between Lai-Kha town and Paan Phone village, which ran through the 3 village tracts.
Altogether not less than 17 villages in the 3 village tracts situated on and near the main road were affected by the order. During the forced labour period which lasted 4-5 days, each village had to provide at least 10 labourers each day to go and work, providing their own food and using their own tools.
The villagers were required to work within the limits of their own village tracts. At least once per day, the Burmese troops came and inspected the work sites to see if there were enough villagers as designated and if they were working hard enough.
Some of the affected villages were: Ho Ta, Kun Hung, Paa La and Wan Saang villages in Wan Saang village tract; Wan Thi, Phak Khom, Kung Khaam and Kun Saai villages in Wan Thi village tract; and Zalaai Khum, Wan Kyawng, Maak Keng and Zalaai Loi villages in Paang Saang and other village tracts.
For nearly 2 weeks in November 2010, villagers of Zalaai Khum and Zalaai Loi villages in Wan Paang village tract in Lai-Kha township were forced to fix a military camp manned by members of a Shan ceasefire group, at Nawng Kaa village in Wan Paang village tract.
The villagers were required to fix and rebuild parts of the fences around the camp, and the needed materials had to be gathered and transported by the villagers tractors. All the bunkers and trenches were also needed to be cleared and fixed.
For 12 days, the villagers had to take turns and work on a daily basis to complete the work. In addition to such occasional mass forced labour, the villagers of the whole Wan Paang village tract had to routinely provide their tractors for military use without receiving anything in return, not even the costs of the fuel.
On 28 November 2010, large amounts of money were also extorted from the villagers of Zalaai Khum and Zalaai Loi villages by the said members of the ceasefire group. The money was needed to hire new recruits because local villagers did not want to join their group, they said.
It was later learned that 2,000,000 kyat was extorted from Zalaai Khum village and 1,000,000 kyat from Zalaai Loi village. Out of the money, the members of the ceasefire group gave 1,000,000 kyat to the Burmese military authorities in the area and took the rest for themselves.


During 2010, from the start to the end of the year, villagers in Murng Pu Long village tract in Murng-Paeng township were forced to routinely provide forced labour virtually all year round in building roads in the area.
There were 3 roads still under construction in Murng Pu Long village tract at the time when this report was received in early 2011:
1. From Murng Pu to Khi Khaab village
2. From Murng Pu to Si Paw village
3. From Murng Pu to Paa Mon village
Villagers were required to take turns and go to work in one or another of the roads several times per month, providing their own food and using their own tools. Money was also occasionally extorted from the villagers by the Burmese army troops in the area.
Earlier this year, on 12 January 2011, money was extorted from every household in the whole village tract at a rate ranging from 6,000 to 10,000 kyat, based on the social and economic status of each household. The villagers were not told for what the money was to be used.
The following are some other instances of forced labour and extortion committed by the SPDC troops and their cronies in the areas under their control or where they patrolled:

For several days in November 2010, civilian tractors were forced to transport troops, food stuffs extorted, and villagers were conscripted as unpaid porters by a patrol of SPDC troops from LIB517, in Ho-Pong township.
On 15 November 2010, a patrol of about 45 SPDC troops from LIB517, based in Loi-Lem township, came to Nam Khai village in Ta Nurng Wern village tract in Ho-Pong township. The troops conscripted 3 tractors and extorted some food stuffs, including rice, cooking oil, salt and seasoning power, etc., from the villagers.
The troops stayed at Nam Khai village until the afternoon of the next day, 16 November 2010, and left the village at about 4 oclock, riding the 3 conscripted tractors and heading towards Paang Phalaa mountain range in Paang Phalaa village tract.
The 3 tractors were released at Kung Niu village in Paang Phalaa village tract after having to transport the SPDC troops on their patrolling of the area for 2 days. The tractor owners received nothing for their service and had to provide their own fuel, which had cost them over 20,000 kyat.
At Kung Niu village, the SPDC troops conscripted 5 male villagers as unpaid porters and continued their patrol on foot, heading towards Nyaung Lay Khwa village. The conscripted porters were: Zaai Thi, aged 38, Zaai Leng, 40, Zaai Su, 46, Zaai Kham, 38 and Kaw-Wi, aged unknown.
From Nyaung Lay Khwa village, the SPDC troops were said to have continued towards Murng Laang and patrolled the area for some more days. When the 5 porters, who had been conscripted from Kung Niu village, were released was not known.
In late 2010, civilian tractors and motorcycles were forced to provide regular forced labour and pay frequent taxes, and villagers were conscripted to serve in the Burmese army, or provide money instead, by a combined force of SPDC troops of IB64 and members of a ceasefire group, Lai-Kha township.
During late 2010 and early 2011 when this report was received, the said combined force, manning a military camp at a bridge at a place called Ta Maak Laang in the outskirts south of Lai-Kha town, have required the people to provide free vehicle service on a daily basis.
Every day, at least 2 tractors and 5 motorcycles had to report to the military camp and stay in wait to provide free services as necessary. The owners also had to provide their own fuel for their vehicles and often also drivers for the tractors.
Virtually every day, money was extorted from other vehicles that passed through the checkpoint set up at the bridge. Each vehicle was required to pay from 500 kyat up to 1,000 kyat, depending on the brand and conditions of each.
On 8 September 2010, a patrol of the said combined force, led by Maj. Htun Swe from IB64, went by conscripted tractors to patrol the areas east of Lai-Kha town and conscript new recruits. They went to Nawng Kaw, Haai Seng and Naa Poi village tracts and ordered the communities to provide new recruits to serve in the Burmese army, 2,3 and 2 persons respectively from the village tracts.
The said 7 new recruits were to report to the military base by the end of September 2010. If the villagers could not find new recruits, they had to instead provide money to the authorities to hire others to replace them.
The money for each recruit was set at 3,000,000 kyat, which was to be collected from the villagers in their respective village tracts. To make up such amounts of money, each household was required to provide between 50,000 and 100,000 kyat