- Commentary : Forced Labour
- Villagers forced to build a new military camp, lands confiscated, in Nam-Zarng
- Villagers forced to build military camp and provide routine forced labour, in Nam-Zarng
- People forced to fix roads in Kun-Hing and NamZarng
- Villagers forced to clear sides of road in Murng-Sart
- Villagers forced to keep watch and work at military camp in Lai-Kha
- Villagers forced to grow crops and provide other routine forced labour in Murng-Nai
- Forced labour and extortion in Murng-Paeng
- Forced labour and extortion in Lai-Kha
- Forced labour in Murng-Nai
- Forced labourers told to say they volunteered, in Kun-Hing
- Forced labour of villagers’ vehicles in Murng-Yawng
- Forced labour used in military operations in Murng-Paeng
COMMENTARY : Forced Labour
There was an interesting piece of news concerning forced labour early in the month: President Thein Sein had signed the labour organization bill into law, and workers would be able to legally form trade unions and go on strike when necessary.
At first glance the news appeared somewhat encouraging until when it said that ‘although the bill includes severe penalties for employers who breach its regulations, the military is immune from prosecution in a civilian court, which is guaranteed in the 2008 constitution’.
That has effectively excluded the rampant use of civilian forced labour by the Burmese military in Shan State. Moreover, instead of admitting the existence of it and trying to address it in a sincere manner, the military have been attempting to hide the fact by compelling people to say that they volunteer of their own free will, and even threatening them with punishment if they defy the order, as reported in this month’s issue.
As they have been claiming that political prisoners are not political prisoners because they are charged with criminal offences, the military appear to be willing to claim that forced labourers also are not forced labourers because they voluntarily offer their labour.
Therefore, theoretically, as there are no political prisoners, there are no forced labourers. However, in fact, the opposite is true..
VILLAGERS FORCED TO BUILD A NEW MILITARY CAMP, LANDS CONFISCATED, IN NAM-ZARNG
In early 2011, villagers of Kho Lam village in Nam-Zarng township were forced to provide free labour in building a new military camp by the Burmese army troops of IB66 at a place confiscated from the local villagers of Kho Lam village tract.
On 20 January 2011, at a meeting of the Burmese army authorities held at Kho Lam village, it was announced that 2 military bases were ordered by Naypyitaw to be built in the area. A new Tactical Command was to be set up about 3 kilometres north of Kho Lam, and a new battalion base was to be built about 2 kilometers west of the village.
At the time when this report was received, at the end of February 2011, although nothing had yet been done for the new Tactical Command, the construction of the new battalion base had already been underway for some time.
Many villagers’ farmlands west of Kho Lam village had been confiscated to make room for the new battalion base and mass forced labour of the local people was used to clear the land, dig trenches, and gather building materials such as wood and bamboo, etc..
Villagers’ tractors were required to transport wood, bamboo and other building materials to the building site known locally as Kung Khe Sawm at Loi Khi Haen hill. Water and other necessities also had to be transported by villagers’ vehicles.
Both villagers and their vehicles were systematically conscripted by the Burmese army to work in building the new battalion base on a regular basis. However, villagers were required to provide their own food and buy fuel for their vehicles with their own money.
VILLAGERS FORCED TO BUILD MILITARY CAMP AND PROVIDE ROUTINE FORCED LABOUR, IN NAM-ZARNG
In early 2011, villagers of Kaad Lur village in Kaad Lur village tract in Nam-Zarng township were forced to build a military camp, and provide other types of routine forced labour, by the Burmese army troops of LIB516.
During the whole month of February 2011, villagers of Kaad Lur village in Kaad Lur village tract were forced to provide free labour in building a military camp, which was an expansion of the existing camp at Kaad Lur village, by the Burmese army troops of Nam-Zarng-based LIB516.
At least 20 villagers each day were required to work at the camp building fences, digging trenches and building bunkers, etc.. Villagers’ tractors were required to transport building materials such as wood, bamboo and roofing thatch, etc., which also had to be collected by the villagers.
Even after the construction of the camp, villagers were still required to routinely provide their tractors and motorcycles for military use at the camp on a daily basis. Each day, 3 tractors and 4 motorcycles had to be at the camp.
The tractors were mainly used to transport water, sand and firewood for making bricks, which were sold to generate income for the military, and the motorcycles were used for running errands and visiting places. The villagers also had to provide their own fuel for their vehicles.
PEOPLE FORCED TO FIX ROADS IN KUN-HING AND NAM-ZARNG
In early 2011, people in Kun-Hing and Nam-Zarng townships were forced to fix roads in their townships by the Burmese army troops of IB246 and IB287 for many weeks, without receiving any pay and having to provide their own food.
Starting from 5 January 2011, villagers of Saai Mon village in Laai Kaam village tract in Kun-Hing township were forced by the military authorities of IB246 to fix the section of the Nam-Zarng - Kun-Hing main road that was in the area of their village tract.
The work included digging earth from higher places and filling up pot holes and lower places, and clearing the sides of the road of brush and bushes. About 25-30 villagers were required to work each day, using their own tools and providing their own food. It had been almost a month and the work was still continuing when this report was received.
Starting from 18 January 2011, villagers of Paang Nim and Kung Pao villages in Paang Nim village tract in Nam-Zarng township were also required by the military authorities of IB287 to repair the road starting from Paang Nim through Kung Pao and up to Saai Mon village in Laai Kaam village tract in Kun-Hing township.
At least 20 villagers had to work on a daily basis for many weeks, also using their own tools and providing their own food. When this report was received in early February 2011, the work was only about half finished.
VILLAGERS FORCED TO CLEAR SIDES OF ROAD IN MURNG-SART
In March 2011, villagers of villages along the Murng-Sart - Murng-Ton main road, including Me Nim village, were forced to clear the sides of the road for several days by the Burmese army troops of IB278.
The villagers, comprising mainly Shan and Lahu peoples, had to take turns and work in rotating groups on a daily basis for several days until the work was finished, using their own tools and providing their own food.
Trees, brush and bushes within about 100 yards on both sides of the road had to be cleared away so that any movement in the areas could be easily seen for the road. The villagers received nothing in return for their time and labour.
VILLAGERS FORCED TO KEEP WATCH AND WORK AT MILITARY CAMP IN LAI-KHA
During March and April 2011, villagers in Wan Saang village tract in Lai-Kha township were forced to keep watch at strategic places and work at a military camp, by the Burmese army troops of IB64.
About 25 villagers from Kun Hung, Ho Ta and Wan Saang villages in Wan Saang village tract, in Lai-Kha township, were required by the Burmese army troops of IB64 to provide free labour on a daily basis for about 2 months, March and April, during which they had to bring their own food every day.
Among the villagers, about 20 of them were required to work at the military camp. They had to clear and renovate the existing trenches and bunkers in the camp and construct new ones at other places if necessary.
About 4-5 of them had to keep watch at different strategic places in the outskirts of Lai-Kha town. Their duty was to immediately report to the military authorities if there were movements of the Shan resistance soldiers in the area.
During the said 2 months, each household had to provide 1 labourer every 3 days, according to the local villagers. After that, it has become less frequent. However, each household still has to provide free forced labour at least 2 times per month up to the time of this report, they said.
VILLAGERS FORCED TO GROW CROPS AND PROVIDE OTHER ROUTINE FORCED LABOUR IN MURNG-NAI
During early and mid 2011, villagers of Naa Khaan and Loi Wawt village tracts in Murng-Nai township were forced to grow corn for the military and provide other routine forced labour by the Burmese army troops of IB248.
During 2011, up until the time of this report, villagers of every village in Naa Khaan and Loi Wawt village tracts in Murng-Nai township have been routinely required by the Burmese army troops of IB248 to work for the military.
The work included fixing and building fences, clearing grass and bushes, fetching water, gathering firewood, clearing the trenches and bunkers, and sweeping the compound, etc.. Occasionally, the villagers were also required to dig new trenches, gather logs and build new bunkers.
To fulfill their routine forced labour duties, the villagers had to work in rotation and each household was required to work 2 times per month and provide at least 1 labourer each time. Occasionally, however, more labourers had to be provided and work more than 2 times within a month.
In mid 2011, the villagers were also required to cultivate corn for the military. They were required to do all the work from start to finish, from clearing and tilling the ground up to the harvest. Growing crops for the military has also been a yearly requirement imposed on the villagers over the years.
FORCED LABOUR AND EXTORTION IN MURNG-PAENG
In mid 2011, villagers of Ho Pong village tract in Murng-Paeng township were forced to grow corn for the military by the Burmese army troops of IB249, who also routinely used villagers’ forced labour and extorted money from them.
All the villages in Ho Pong village tract in Murng-Paeng township had to take turns and cultivate corn for the military. They were required by the Burmese army troops of IB249 to take all the responsibilities concerning the cultivation of the crop from start to finish.
The villagers were also required to routinely provide free forced labour in other types of work, including maintaining military camp, for which each household had to provide at least 1 labourer, and at least 2 times per month.
Apart from having to do various types of forced labour, the villagers were also required to contribute money for the military on a regular basis, collected 2 times per month, from 3,000 up to 5,000 kyat each time.
FORCED LABOUR AND EXTORTION IN LAI-KHA
In early and mid 2011, villagers of Naa Poi village tract in Lai-Kha township were required to work for the military without pay, and rice and money was extorted from them, by a combined force of troops from IB64 of the Burmese army and a Shan ceasefire group.
During the said period, the said combined force of Burmese and Shan troops, manning a camp at Nam Hu Phyaa Tham in Naa Poi village tract in Lai-Kha township, required villagers of several villages in the village tract to provide free labour in maintaining a military camp and clearing the sides of a main road.
The villagers had to work at the military camp clearing and digging trenches, fixing and building fences, and other menial work in maintaining the camp. These compulsory duties required the villagers to work in rotation all year round.
The villagers also had to clear the sides of the main road leading from the military camp up to the edge of Lai-Kha town. Each village was required to work a 1,000-arm-span long section of the road, and 80 arm spans wide on each side.
All trees, brush and bushes had to be completely cleared from the sides of the road. No tree stumps were allowed to be left standing or sticking out of the ground. All trees had to be leveled to the ground, said the order.
Rice was regularly extorted on a monthly basis from the villagers by the said troops. Each village was required to contribute 10 baskets of husked rice to the military per month. When rice was not available, money was extorted instead, at the rate of 16,000 kyat for each basket of rice.
The known affected villages were Kung Sim, Mai Hai, Haan Lin, Kung Keng, Loi Waeng, Ter Zaang, Pa Mai, Kawng Hak, Paang Sa, Nam Waan, Wan Hai, Nam Ma, Pa Moi, Ho Hung, Khur Nim, Nam Hu, Tao Laai, Maak Laang Leo and Zizawya Khe.
FORCED LABOUR IN MURNG-NAI
Since last year up to around mid 2011, when this report was received, the Burmese army troops of IB448 have routinely used unpaid forced labour of Murng-Nai townspeople to work for the military.
The Burmese troops of IB448, manning the camp at Saai Phe village in the outskirts of Murng-Nai town, required the townspeople to work for them on a regular basis. The work included the maintenance of the camp and gathering of bamboo, wood, firewood and water outside the camp, and other activities.
To fulfill these routine forced labour duties, all the town quarters were needed to provide labourers in a rotating manner. At least 10 persons were required to work as unpaid labourers for the military each time, at least 4-5 times a month. .
FORCED LABOURERS TOLD TO SAY THEY VOLUNTEERED, IN KUN-HING
Since many years up to mid 2011, people in Kun-Hing town have been required by the Burmese military authorities to provide free labour in maintaining military camps and other infrastructure around the town on a regular basis.
At least 4-5 times a month, about 20-30 persons each time were required to do one or several of the following types of work: clearing the grounds surrounding pagodas that were constructed and worshipped by the military; clearing the sides of the roads; clearing the grounds inside and outside of the fences surrounding the military camps; clearing the trenches and bunkers in the military camps; etc..
Since some time ago, especially during 2011, the Burmese army troops that were on duty overseeing the forced labourers at work often warned them not to say that they were being forced to work, but to say that they were only volunteering. Those who dared say otherwise would be punished, they said.
FORCED LABOUR OF VILLAGERS’ VEHICLES IN MURNG-YAWNG
In May 2011, tractors belonging to villagers of Wan Naa village tract in Murng-Yawng township were forced by the Burmese army troops of LIB311 to transport military things all day long. The tractor owners were required to provide their own food and fuel, and fix their broken down tractors on their own.
On 15 May 2011, 9 tractors were forcibly conscripted from the villagers of Wan Naa, Kaw Khoi, Wan Tump and Pha Keo villages in Wan Naa village tract in Murng-Yawng township, by the Burmese army troops of LIB311.
The tractors were forced to transport the troops and military things from Murng-Yawng town to a place where there was a large pagoda, about 5 kilometres north of the town. Although the distance was not so big, each tractor had to return 3-4 times to transport all of them.
The road was so rough that at least 2-3 tractors broke down along the way and the other tractors were required to come back and transport their cargos. The Burmese troops took no interest in the broken tractors and they were left to the owners to do what was required.
According to the owners, in addition to having to provide their own food and fuel, they also had to pay for all the costs in towing their broken tractors back and fixing them at the garages in Murng-Yawng town. The Burmese military took no responsibility.
FORCED LABOUR USED IN MILITARY OPERATIONS IN MURNG-PAENG
From early up to mid 2011, villagers in Murng Pu Long village tract in Murng-Paeng township were routinely forced to provide free labour during military operations by the Burmese army troops of IB43, based in Murng-Paeng.
Since March up to mid 2011, members of people’s militia and ordinary villagers in Murng Pu Long village tract were routinely forced to serve the Burmese military as fighters and porters during patrols, and stand guard at their villages.
In early 2011, a contingent of about 100 Burmese army troops from IB43 set up an out post camp at Wan Tong village in Murng Pu Long village tract, and recruited 100 villagers from the 9 villages in the village tract to form a people’s militia force.
The 9 villages, and their populations, in Murng Pu Long village tract were: Kun Kawk, 100 houses; Kaeng Hin, 85 houses; Waeng Hawng, 55 houses; Waeng Zaan, 25 houses; Wan Tong, 60 houses; Zawm Tawng, 50 houses; Paeng Saang, 70 houses; Waeng Kao, 50 houses; and Lawn Keo, 50 houses.
Villagers were recruited in accordance with the size of the population of each village, 20 or 10 or 5 persons, to serve in the people’s militia. The duties of the people’s militia were to go with the Burmese army troops on their patrols and serve as both scouts and fighters.
Other villagers were also required to serve as unpaid porters with the military patrols, and keep watch at their villages. All the village entrances were to be guarded by the villagers of the respective villages, using muskets or knives as their weapons, and to immediately report to the Burmese army troops when they sighted any signs of Shan soldiers.
The Burmese army troops divided themselves into 2 groups and while one group went out on patrol, the other remained at the camp until those who had gone on patrol returned, and took turns to go out on patrol again, in a rotating manner.
Every time the Burmese troops went out on patrol, which was usually about 10 days each time, about 20 members of the people’s militia were required to accompany them, to show them the way and fight alongside them. Ordinary villagers were also required to serve as unpaid porters.
However, the Burmese military took no responsibility to provide food and other necessities for the members of the people’s militia and the civilian porters during those patrols. Village headmen of their respective villages had to support the people’s militia, and the civilian porters had to provide their own food and other necessities.
The Burmese military also took no responsibility for casualties suffered by the people’s militia. Sometime in April 2011, 2 members of the people’s militia were seriously wounded by a land mine during a military patrol.
One of them sustained a severed leg and the other a broken leg, but the Burmese troops did not take them to the hospital to receive treatment. The villagers themselves had to take them to the hospital and also pay for all the costs of the treatment.