Forced Labour and Slavery



"I would categorically like to state that there is no element of coercion or force involved concerning the use of civilian labourers. In fact, the development projects are for the benefit of the local populace and the government has spent a substantial amount of money on these projects. The daily wages for the labourers, contrary to the allegations, are found to be commensurate with those prevailing in the areas concerned. A point worthy of mention is that donating labour is a tradition deeply rooted in Myanmar's culture. There is a belief that donating labour in the building of pagodas, monasteries, roads and bridges gives mental and physical well-being. It is widely accepted in my country that voluntary work for the good of the community is not tantamount to forced labour or violation of human rights."

— U Win Mra, Permanent Representative of the Delegation of the Union o Myanmar to the Fourth-Ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, December 1994


Forms of forced labour are continuing to increase in Burma under SLORC, whose leaders have admitted that what is considered slavery in the West, is actually considered traditional voluntary labour and a “noble deed” in Burmese Buddhist tradition. Infrastructure projects extend from one end of the country to the other; including the cities and Burman areas. People are taken from cinemas (a traditional form of entertainment for the poorer people) for portering sometimes half-way across the country. People are arrested on false charges by police and find themselves in war zones the next morning under the military slavery.


On the construction sites, many peoples had died because of the horrendous health conditions and accidents of earthen collapses and tools crashes. As slave-labourers, the people were not paid any payment for their manual labours, and they brought their own foods from their houses and there is no compensation for the confiscation of farmlands of the villages.


Especially, the SLORC's local battalions are responsible to provide the labour needed in the construction sites. Through the village headmen, anyway, they will enslave villagers in turns of rotation duties by means of conscripting one person from one house. The treatment of the soldiers is also inhumane and appallingly cruel. This is the reason why the new flow of refugee came into existence.


No one is any longer safe, without “connections” or money to bribe officials. Increasingly, forced labour is encompassing people from the entire country, as the junta prepares for “Visit Myanmar 1996”, as if to promise the people, “Things will get better but before that...”




Survey work for the new Ye‑Tavoy Railway in Mon State and Tenasserim Division was completed in October 1993. Regional SLORC authorities have now informed all villagers in Thayetchaung Township, Paunglone Township and Ye Pyu Township that every family will have to do at least 2 months of forced labour on the new railway without payment, and they will have to bring all their own food. Each family has also been ordered to supply 20 railway sleepers; they will have to cut the trees in the forest and make these sleepers themselves. Each villager who owns an elephant has been ordered to convey 10 tons of logs to the railway. The orders specified that any family which fails to meet the demands will be punished. Villagers in the whole area are now doing their forced labour assignments on the railway. [source: KNU]

The railroad links the two garrison towns of Ye in Mon State and Tavoy in the Tenasserim Division. Maj Gen Maung Hla, commander of SLORC’s Southeastern Military command, is in charge of this area. When the railroad is completed, SLORC will be ready to carry out extensive counter-insurgency operations throughout the area.


At the present time, the SLORC is nervous about security for the proposed gas pipeline which will cross this area and enter Thailand. Several large companies, including PTTEP of Thailand, TOTAL of France, UNOCAL of the USA, and MOGE of Burma are involved in this pipe line project. People from four townships along the route of the railroad are regularly conscripted to work as “voluntary” labourers on the project. The majority of the people in the area are farmers and fishermen. According to the testimonies of local people, the total number of conscripted village labourers is between 20-30,000. The age of most conscripted labourers is between 16 to 60 and includes both male and female.  Five labour camps have been established along the rail line, each housing at least 1,000 people at a time. The army issued an order that the local people must assign one person from each family to always be at the worksite. They must carry their own food during working days and receive no wages. A few wealthy families hire members from poor families to work for them, but most of the people are poor farmers and can not afford to pay for help. Head men from the villages are responsible to deliver the required number of workers to the worksite where about 800 heavily armed soldiers patrol to protect the rail line from sabotage by the guerrillas. The army even threatened that if any faults in the work are discovered, the head of the village responsible will be punished.

Traditional farming methods rely on the men in the family who can better carry out the physically demanding tasks of tilling the soil and harvesting the crops. Conscription for these work details, therefore, has an especially negative effect on small families or families who have only one male member. When the men are at the worksite, the remaining family members find it extremely difficult to work the farms and grow the necessary food. When the men return, the women are expected to replace them at the worksite unless they have children over 16 years of age who can do the work.  The one threat constantly hanging over the villagers’ heads is the army’s clear order that one person from each family must always be at the worksite until the task is finally completed. The villagers are unaware what the target date for completion of the rail road is.

The army prohibits journalists from visiting the are except for military correspondents. When the military correspondents take pictures, the people are required to smile. Moreover, the people are ordered to sing national songs at the end of the day as they return to camp. The military correspondents record all these concocted scenes to show on the public media. 

The health care system is very poor – there is no water, no sanitation, and inadequate medicine. Some villagers have reported that each villager must also pay 3,000 Ks for health insurance and medical fees. The very poor farmers who do not have extra cash, must sell their lands or their livestock in order to get the necessary money.

The army sometimes sends several civilian and military doctors to the worksite to take care of the people. Whoever is sick must first see the civilian doctor. If the civilian doctor suggests that the patient should be given sick leave, the patient must then go to the military doctor. The army doctor will double check the person’s condition before giving the villager the right to break several days from work. To get sick leave, villagers must be extremely sick and weak.

One farmer who escaped said, “We are farmers and are used to hard work almost every single day on the farm, but this is the hardest work ever in our lives”. The average work day is 11 hours.

The ethnic Mon guerrillas claim that already about 200 families have fled from villages in the area and arrived in the refugees camps. An ethnic Karen eyewitness said groups of Karen are fleeing from the area and are seeking refuge in the Karen-controlled area.


Foreign investors always insist that their investments will improve the living conditions of the people, and help bring democracy to Burma. The reality is that thousands of people are suffering at worksites designed to provide infrastructure support for these investment projects. Hundreds more have become refugees in neighbouring countries or displace persons in the jungle. An improvement in life is no longer a part of their dream.


Pokukku-Gagaw-Kalay Rail Line Construction


Peasants in these areas shed many tears as many acres of their farms were confiscated without any compensation by SLORC for the construction of the Pokukku-Gagaw-Kalay rail line. Local people in Kalay were upset with the rail line construction because each household was forced to send one family member, excluding the blind and paralysed, to contribute one week's labour. Each household which failed to send someone had to pay a fine of 1500 Ks to local SLORC authorities or hire somebody else. The cost of hiring ranged from 800 to 1500 Ks. The worst event was when local people living in Khan Myo quarter and quarter A to E of Thar Han were forced to go to Zin Kalee area to contribute labour. Every quarter or area was divided and required to send a group of 25-30 people. They had to bring 24 tins of rice, 100-150 Ks of money in cash, baskets, knives, pickaxes, mattocks, chopping hoes, grab goes, axes. The poor had to collect these tools by selling their pans, clothing and other property. Each group was assigned to complete an earthen embankment 30 ft wide (the base), 11-15 ft high, 15 ft wide (the top surface) and 100 ft long.


Many people died when logs fell on them, and some were drowned in the Myit Thar River as they did not know how to swim. SLORC troops did not provide any medicine or medical treatment for those who got sick. The assignment could be completed within one week only if the labourers worked very hard. When the local people finished their work, USDA and SLORC forced high school students to put up ready-made signboards, took documentary video footage and used it as propaganda directed at the international community and people throughout Burma. Then, one SLORC official ordered the people to continue their work for 4-5 days. The people were very upset with the activities of SLORC. When one of the labourers said, "We are poor and odd job employees. We therefore want you to reconsider on further work. It is not possible for us to work any longer." SLORC responded, "You are not the only person to work; all the people here must work."


Labourers estimate that in January, about 1,500 local people living in 5 quarters and over 150 villages in Kalay Township were forced to work. Local people in Kalay were very disappointed with the SLORC regime because they cannot celebrate their religious ceremonies, and instead are facing high prices of basic commodities, frequent demands for labour and various kinds of assessments. [source: ABSDF/NLD-LA]


Kalay-Gangaw-Pakokku Railway Line


This 207-mile-long railway line has been under construction since 3 February 1994. Maj Thura Sein Win of IB 89 is in control of the Kalay section of the railway line. Each household in 28 parishes of Kalay Township were ordered to send one family member to contribute corvee labour. Each household had already contributed labour at gunpoint four times previously. During the first two times, the forced labour lasted for one week on each occasion while the labour carried on for over one month each for the last two times. In each group, there were 25-30 labourers and they were assigned to finish 20-50 feet of earthen embankment. The base is 15 feet, the surface is 10 feet and the height is 4-20 feet. [20-50 sq feet?] Villagers had to bring their own construction tools, food and medicine, or spend their own money to get these things. Anyone who want to be spared from the contribution of labour must pay a fine-cum-ransom of 1,500 Ks to those LORC authorities. Charges for a hired hand are 700-2,000 Ks. Private traffic in the area was conscripted to function as unpaid transportation.


Before summoning the labourers in January 1994, Maj Thura Sein Win said that SLORC will help provide security, health care, and industrial machinery in the areas which are difficult for the labourers. But he did not keep his word. Rental charges for bulldozers run at 2,000 Ks per hour, which coerced labourers must pay SLORC for use of. The so-called volunteers were divided into two assignments every day. The first assignment was to work from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. while the second one was from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Those who were responsible for night assignment had to find ways to get electricity on their own resources. 4 labourers from Nat Chaung Village were beaten for an entire night as they could not afford this necessary electricity.


Because of a landslide, labourers from Tar Han Ward and Nat Chaung Village were sent to hospital. But the victims must use their own money to buy medicine. Some sick were allowed to go back to their homes only when they were dying. When the SLORC military asked the family members of those ill labourers about their problems and their will, families dared not answer their difficulties; instead, they had to respond that they have no specific intention and the dead person will never be alive anymore. There were a number of deaths because of incidents at the worksite.


To contribute labour, local people in the area have to sell or pawn what they have. The elderly, children and women heavy with child are not spared from contributing corvee labour. Because of landslides, falling trees, drowning, malnutrition and anaemia, illnesses brought on by conditions, and beatings by SLORC troops, about 50 people have already died. Much land and farmers' fields where the railway line will pass through were confiscated by SLORC. Those who complained were arrested and tortured. Local people in Kalay Township were forced to collect stones 10 feet long, 4 feet wide and 1 foot high. If bought, each collection of stones costs 1,600 Ks. The labourers have to collect stones not only for the construction of the railway line but also for the buildings of the military officials from IB 228. Because of heavy rains, flood and landslide during the rainy season water from Htee stream changed its flow and the railway line was under a new water way. The new stream is 15-20 feet deep and 500 yards long. On 8 August 1994, Win Sein, Minister for Rail Transport, televised that SLORC has already provided 5,700,000 Ks for the social welfare, education and health care for the labourers. In reality, however, no labourers have received a pya and there has been open admissions by some local leaders that this money will not be given to the people as designated. [source: ABSDF]


Chaung U- Pakokku Railway Line


Construction started in the beginning of 1994. Local people in Chaug U, Pakokku, Myaing, Ye Sagyo were forced to contribute corvee labour, covering their own expenses. Although every household has been assigned to contribute labour four times, work for building of the earthen embankment has not finished yet. For one term, it lasted 7 days to one month. Some labourers died of diseases, beatings and torture. People who earned for their living by harvesting toddy nuts had to abandon their daily work, with the result that the price for jaggery becomes higher.


The steel rails, the engines and wagons were carried from Chaung U to Pa Rein Ma Jetty across the Chindwin River, Mahuyar Jetty to Simikhon Jetty across the Irrawaddy River, then to Pakokku. Over 80,000 sleepers were also carried along that route by the labourers.


The poor peasants from Kyauk Kar, Myaing Si, Kyauk Kwe, Kha Tet Tan, Taung Ma Taw, Tit Nyo Pin and Se Kyi Taw parishes were forced to do laborious work like breaking up stones without any pay. Poverty-stricken people living in the parishes of Pale, Yin Mar Bin and Sar Lin Gyi were also forced to dig wells for an entire day without any compensation for their time and work. Moreover, each household had to send 1-2 family members on 2 occasions. Beatings were common while the people were working. One labourer who suffered from anuriea and others from anaemia had to take the treatment at the hospital there, covering their own expenses.


The worst case is local people living along the construction site of Chaung U-Pakokku-Kalay railway lines who were forced to contribute corvee labour. As SLORC ordered the villagers to contribute labour on a compulsory basis, those household which had only children and those who were not able to go to the worksite were forced to give a ransom ranging 800 to 1,200 Ks in order to hire someone else to replace them. Local people had to sell their property to cover the ransom. They have already contributed labour 3 times and will have to contribute more as the construction has not yet finished. Odd-jobs workers and daily employees were in trouble because they could not afford to give a ransom to SLORC. All the labourers there had to spend their own money for food and transportation. To cover their expenses, they had to sell their personal possessions, such as gold earrings and clothes. Even the peasants who were familiar with hard work could not bear the hardship and murmured. A peasant from Kalay Township was allowed to brought home when he was dying. After he died, his family received no compensation from SLORC authorities who had worked him to death. [source: ABSDF/NLD-LA]




Since September 1993 local people from over 300 villages in 84 parishes in Myaing have been forced to contribute corvee labour for the construction of the Pakokku-Myaing-Gagaw-Kalay Railway Line. For the construction, each family was forced to send one family member aged between 14 and 60. If there is no one who is within the criteria of SLORC, all family members are forced to contribute labour. In this context, even the elderly and children are not spared from working. Moreover, the labourers had to bring their own baskets, mattocks, grubbing hoes, chopping hoes, pick axes, as well as 8-pound-weight hammers. As the labourers do not have such kind of hammers, they are forced to purchase the equipment from outside the village. The labourers must also arrange transportation to the worksite, covering their own expenses. This involves going by bus up to the distance where the bus route reaches, then they have to walk further to reach the worksite. Daily bus fare per person costs 50 Ks.


Those who cannot afford to contribute labour have to give a ransom ranging about 3,000 Ks. Any person who fails to meet either of these, faces with various forms of harassment from the army, police and local SLORC authorities. Up to now, the phase of the construction in Myaing has not yet been finished. Since the construction of the railway line has been under construction, all the people, regardless of their age, are under undue hardships.


Since the railway line has been under construction, owners of cars, motorcycles, and bicycles have also been forced to give their vehicles, while even owners of video cassettes were forced to give their private video cassettes at gun point. There is no time limit for the contributing of labour. SLORC provides no shelter for labourers. SLORC takes no responsibility for the medical treatment of labourers who become sick or are suffering from disease, nor those who receive injuries at the construction site.


Moreover, SLORC does not provide enough drinking water for the labourers at the worksite. The labourers are denied access to respond to anything that SLORC orders. SLORC wants them to follow orders and don't ask questions. SLORC does not expect to be disobeyed or defined. When somebody responses, he/she is slapped and force to dig trenches and do other hard works. Murmuring of the labourers"We have been totally enslaved under the rule of SLORC"have been heard around the construction site area.


Most of the female labourers were gang-raped by the troops. As they are ashamed of revealing their cases, many cases remained unexposed. [source: ABSDF/NLD-LA]


Civil servants were also levied a number of taxes. Taxes for each servant includes 500 Ks for breaking stones, 150 Ks for carrying stones to the truck and another 800 Ks for digging the earth pitch for the construction of the line. No servant is spared from this taxation.


From September 1993 to February 1994, during the half-way phase of the construction, 21 people died and many others were injured. Their hands and/or legs were broken due to a severe landslide.


In the first week of February 1994, SLORC Secretary-1 Lt Gen Khin Nyunt inspected the process of the railway line construction. At that time, the labourers were forced to say, "We are satisfied with contributing this kind of labour and enjoy to do so."


Peasants in Myaing Township are now getting into trouble as they do not have no land to escape to with their very lives and livelihood, and no money to pay SLORC "dues". Moreover, those who failed to attend the USDA mass rally were faced with various forms of harassmenta fine of 500 Ks per person, confiscation of household list (known as Form No. 10) and ID cards, arrest and imprisonment, overtime forced labour at the construction site plus a 30 Ks fine as a punishment, in addition to a multitude of indignities and violations of their person or private property.


Villagers were not only compelled to contribute corvee labour at the railway construction site, they were also subjected to other forms of enforced labour, all against their will. For example, SLORC demanded from the labourers to pay 20 pieces of firewood per household, 5 branches of toddy-palm leaf, jute, groundnut and cooking oil and fees for the trip of Lt Gen Khin Nyunt. The villagers were not in any position to deny the demands SLORC's troops. As the villagers are afraid of authoritarian rule from the gun, they have to find ways to fulfil these strenuous and illicit demands. [source: ABSDF/NLD-LA]




SLORC repaired roads in Monywa and each local household was assigned to complete the phase in front of their house. For the complement of the assignment, each household had to spend 500-1,000 Ks. For their living, common people have to conduct their daily livelihood in accordance with SLORC rules and regulations. If residents fail to abide by SLORC's self-imposed laws which amount to little more than "decrees", as a punishment, SLORC authorities very often check their household list at 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and force them to clean the road or to contribute corvee labour.


Railroad construction is now going on between Monywa-Pakoku-Kankaw-Kalemyo to link it with Tamu on the Indian border. The work started in 1993 and the Pakoku to Kalemyo stretch has already completed the ground work. The next stage will be teak for sleepers and iron tracks. For this project thousands of Chins are being forced to work without receiving a single penny or food. As a result, the people are starving and suffering from malnutrition and sickness. The army personnel who supervise this project mistreated the forced labours to such extent that several people died. In strengthening their stronghold in East Chinland, the Burmese army forced the villagers to work on their military bases, roads and bridges. Fully occupied by this forced labour, the people do not have time to earn their living.


Local people in Chaung U, Myaung, Ye Sagyo, Pakokku, Myaing, Htee Lin, Gangaw, Pa Le, Yin Mar Pin and Kalay townships, Sagaing Division, were forced to contributed corvee labour for the construction of the Chaung U-Pakokku-Gangaw-Kalay railway line. In December 1994, civilians in Myaing, Htee Lin and Pa Le townships were conscripted by LORC and forced to sign up under 3 different categories. The first one was to agree to contribute labour by him/herself while the second one was to agree to give compensation for their absence and the last one was failure to abide by the law. Those who were put under the third category were waiting for punishment in the fear imposed by SLORC. Compensation were paid at the rate fixed by SLORC; 2,000 Ks to every 15,000 Ks.


Those who agreed to contribute labour by themselves had to sign a list and inform the military about their presence as soon as they arrived at the worksite. They were not given enough food and there was no timeframe for the contribution of labour. They had to spend their own money to get treatment in case of suffering from illness and injury. Some labourers had to sell their own cows, carts and land to cover the expenses for their treatment. Those who had nothing to sell lost their lives. While they were contributing labour, they were blamed with rude words, damned, beaten and tortured by the SLORC troops. Those
who made jokes were also subjected to beatings. Although SLORC said that each labourer would be given 30 Ks for one 10 sq foot-wide, 1 foot-deep earthen pit, in reality they received nothing, and instead of due payment the labourers were forced to sign that they had contributed their pay as a donation to SLORC funds.


Many people died because of floods since they have been forced to dig the streams in Kan Gyi, Tha Pyay Taw and Ye Oh Sin villages, located north of Monywa Township. Local people in Tharzi, Kyaung Gone, Kan Pyar Gyi and Kyauk Sit Pong parishes have been forced to contribute corvee labour for the construction of Tharzi dam in Monywa township. The construction period will be lasted for 2 months, causing the villagers there into trouble as most of them were odd-jobs labourers. Local people in Monywa, Ayardaw, Chaung U, Myaung, Myin Mu and Sagaing were forced to grow trees by the side of motorways in their townships.


As a preparation for Visit Myanmar 1996, many people have been forced to contribute corvee labour for the repair and construction of roads and markets and growing the trees, causing them to be faced with many troubles. They have been forced to contribute corvee labour, to pay their own money as "fees", relocate from their home community after their lands where they lived for generations were confiscated without any compensation. In the cities, people who live along the motorways have been forced to build brick houses and fence them with brick, and ordered to move if they did not do as they were ordered. [source: NLD-LA]


SLORC is also planning to build a major trade route to India. There is an existing road from Kalemyo via Falam to Rih Lake on the border and this needs to be greatly upgraded. A “border security” agreement was signed in 1993 between SLORC and India. The “Laiva Hydroelectric Project” has started two years ago on the Laiva River near Falam, Chin State. It is quite a big dam and is requiring a lot of forced labour. SLORC is saying that this is a development project for the good of the people; however, this project will affect many villages and the indigenous people will be displaced when the dam is completed, most likely without compensation as occurred in other circumstances.




In Naung-leng Village of Hsipaw Township, soldiers of Coy 1 of IB 243 staged a raid in order to capture villagers for use as porters. Some of the villagers tried to escape and were shot at by one of the officers. Tsai Panti was seriously wounded. The soldiers made no effort to take care of him, and when it was safe the villagers were finally able to take him to the hospital. [source: SHRF]




The Burmese military junta has established a television-receiving centre at 10-mile milepost outside Maungdaw which has been under construction on top of the Tunnel Hill for the last several months. In order to facilitate smooth transportation to the top of the hill, the officials have taken initiative to construct an all season metal road from the bottom to the top of the hill. In order to facilitate smooth transportation to the top of the hill, officials have ordered the construction of an all-weather road.


It is understood that the technology for TV and satellite centre has been provided by the government of the People's Republic of China and presently eight Chinese engineers are supervising the installation machinery and construction of buildings which are nearing completion.


The border administration has issued a standing order to the villagers to supply about 4,000 labourers routinely for work on the projects from different villages. However, Muslim villagers are not provided any food, nor are they given any wages. [source: MOA]



 “Get another truck. The ghosts won't all fit in this one."


The message in Burmese was loud and clear. We were sitting in a house in the northern Thai border town of Mae Sai listening to a friend's radio, which could pick up conversations between SLORC troops across the border in Tachilek.


SLORC were rounding up Shan villagers to work as porters in their new offensive against Khun Sa, known internationally as the "opium king" of the Golden Triangle.


The word "thayae" (ghost) is a term used by SLORC troops to refer to porters. Given that these people are regularly abused and that many never return, the word is chillingly apt.


Since the offensive started in December 1993, the SLORC has been press-ganging thousands of villagers in Shan State to be used as porters. Those who have managed to escape to the Thai border report that many have died, some from illness and malnutrition, others from injuries suffered at the front line, or from being shot as they tried to escape.


As well as villagers, the SLORC has also been using prisoners from central Burma. Five Burmese porters who escaped to the Thai border related that they were prisoners from Insein Jail. They said that over three hundred prisoners are currently being used as porters.


It is not only the porters who are suffering from this offensive. The fighting has driven several thousand Shan, Palaung, Pa-O, Lahu and Lisu villagers from their homes, and they are now scattered in the jungle along the Thai border. Last month SLORC began bombing villages around Mong Kyawd, a former Khun Sa base. As a result, many more have fled.


This pattern of abuse of civilians by the SLORC is all too familiar, and has been seen in recent offensives in other ethnic states.


The difference now is that the SLORC is clearly hoping to gain international credibility by appearing to be cracking down on Khun Sa. SLORC claims that this offensive is an anti-narcotics operation and expects the international community to ignore the atrocities being committed in the name of drug eradication.


Given that the SLORC is letting other well-known drug traffickers in the Shan State operate with impunity, and that the start of the current offensive coincided with Khun Sa's declaration of independence for the Shan State, there is cause to doubt the SLORC's sincerity in posturing as drug enforcers. [source: KHRG]




The following information was provided by villagers from Ye Da Shi Township, Taungoo District, Pegu Division, and was gathered by the National League for Democracy-Liberated Area (NLD-LA) Information and Research Department. This testimony is from the report of an NLD representative who has just returned from the area.


Since 1992, SLORC has been implementing a "paddy and fishpond" project in Ye Da Shi Township, Toungoo District. The project is between Ye Da Shi and Myo Hla villages, covering an area about 6 miles in length and one-and-a-half miles in breadth. It involves digging thousands of shallow fish ponds, which are also to be used as rice paddies in rainy season. Each pond is 10 sq. feet, and 4 feet deep. The
entire civilian population of the township is being forced to dig these ponds. This township consists of 5 towns and 58 villages tracts [a village tract is an area including 4 to 6 villages].


About 20,000 people have been forced to work digging these ponds each dry season since 1992. It takes families over 2 weeks to dig 2 ponds because according to villagers, 1 man can dig 100 cubic feet in 2 full days, and 2 ponds constitute 800 cubic feet. The ground in the area is not rocky, but in dry season it is hard as rock, so hard that a long iron crowbar is often the only way to break it up. Villagers must provide all their own tools, and not all of them have such tools. The plots assigned to some villagers also have trees on them which must be uprooted. Villagers must also carry all dirt they dig to the central terraces which they must build, smooth, and plant with banana trees. Depending on one's assigned plot, this terrace may be several hundred yards away.


Each family is assigned 2 ponds, and must also use the excavated earth to build smooth terraces around their ponds, on which they must plant banana trees. This takes an average of 15 to 20 days of hard work for every family. Farmers, workers merchants, technicians, and people from all civilian classes have to do the work. Any household which cannot supply the required labour has to pay 1,000 to 1,200 Ks to hire people to do their assignment for them. Villagers who are SLORC officials are excluded from the labour.


None of the labour is paid. SLORC has given the name "volunteer labour" to all such forms of enforced slavery. The fishpond project is still going on now, this dry season. All ponds are not yet finished. All of the ponds are officially owned by Southern Command of the Burma army, commanded by Brig Soe Myint. People in the area have named the project the "Death Ponds", because more than 100 people have already died of sickness and exhaustion made worse by sunstroke while working on the project. All of the subsistence farmers who used to own this land have been driven out by officers of the Southern Command.


In 1992 Brig Aye Thaung, then commander of Southern Command, seized all agricultural land between Mahn Si, Kyin Ywa, Kun Gyi, and Swa Min Lan villages, about 1,000 acres altogether, without paying any compensation whatsoever to the farmers who owned the land. Their not-yet-ripe crops were bulldozed by army tractors at the time. This 1,000 acres is now being used to grow sugar cane for the profit of military officers. The project is named the "Aye Thaung Sugar Field Project". [Aye Thaung is now SLORC's Minister of Border Area Development, and administers the SLORC's BAD programme, which is partly funded by the UNDP, UNICEF, and other UN Agencies.]


All labour sowing, growing, harvesting, cutting, and carrying the sugar cane to the mills is done by civilian slaves from the village tracts of Shwe Ka Saung, Tha Phan Sin, Swa Taung Kan, Swa Wah Pauk. and Kha Nan Lei. This occurs every growing season, 1994 being the third year. Every house has also recently been forced to make roads 24 feet wide through the fields, raised 4 feet above the fields. Several roads go through each field, and are used to transport the cane out of the fields and as a dry season firebreak. SLORC officials of the Township Council and the Township Police have been allocated the profit from 5 acres each, but the rest officially belongs to Burma Army Southern Command.


In Shwe Ka Saung, Tha Phan Sin, Swa Taung Kan, Swa Wah Pauk, and Kha Nan Lei village tracts [the same as above], there are about 400 bullock carts altogether. In 1992, every house which owned a cart was ordered to go to the forest and bring one piece of timber 18 feet long, at least 3 feet 8 inches in diameter, of solid hardwood other than teak, to be used to build the barracks and other buildings for Southern Command headquarters. The villagers had to cart the timber to the sawmill, where the SLORC officers had it sawn and sold it [the camp headquarters had already been built]. This order was repeated in 1993, and has been repeated again in 1994. Now the SLORC says the wood is for the construction of Aye Tha Ya and Shwe Pi Tha, two new villages being built to house army veterans. The villages are being built right beside the sugar cane fields so the veterans can keep watch on the fields but none of the wood is being used therethe veterans must find their own building materials.


The Rangoon-Mandalay rail line passes through Ye Da Shi Township. Along the rail line, there is a watch point every 200 metres. Villagers in the area have to supply 4 people to man each watch point, day and night. They must also provide people to stand guard along the east bank of the Sittang River every night to prevent any members of opposition groups from crossing to the westside.




The Military Strategic Command is also constructing a hospital in Bawgali Village as a "development project". However, the villagers are being forced to contribute money for all the costs of the project. The funding originally allocated for the project is all being pocketed by the SLORC military officers.


The villagers are also being forced to construct a road between Bawgali and Pa Lay Wa villages. They have to work without pay and bring all their own food while working on the road. The funds originally provided for this "development project" have also been pocketed by the military officers, who then force the villagers to build the road.


Note that the roads which the villagers are being forced to build are all being built only to strengthen military supply lines to SLORC frontline positions and to geographically cut off the KNU headquarters region around Manerplaw. The road to Meh Tha Wah will come quite close to Klay Muh Hta. The villagers also talk about several kinds of forced portering. SLORC sends orders to villages for short-time porters (people ordered to come for a few days on an ad hoc basis) and permanent porters (people who must be replaced by the village every so many days ad infinitum). The villagers can often hire other to go in their place in these cases. SLORC also takes “emergency porters" (when they take people for ad hoc portering duty) and "operations porters" (when they capture people in villages and towns to go on offensive operations until the operation is over or until they escape or die). In these cases there is no way out.




On 9 November, in the evening Prof Yozo Yokota, Special Rapporteur for Burma, arrived at Worksite 2 of the Ye-Tavoy Railway construction, known as Kalaw Worksite, which was assigned to the local people in Yan Myoe Aung Ward and Ah Zin Village in Ye Township. On that day, the Special Rapporteur met with U Har Shin, a veteran and chairman of Yan Myoe Aung Ward, and U Maung Myint, chairman of Ah Zin Village and asked about forced labour for the railway line construction. The Special Rapporteur held a two-hour long meeting with them. According to an interview made with one of the chairmen and reporters from NMSP, NLD-LA and DPNS soon afterwards, Yozo Yokota was apparently provided with disinformation by SLORC, instead of the situation’s true reality in that place.


Before the Special Rapporteur arrived at Worksite 2, SLORC local people from Han Gan, Kalaw Gyi and Maokanin villages, who have been assigned to work for the construction of the railway since it is started, were replaced by SLORC cronies U Har Shin and U Maung Myint on 7 November. Because of that replacement, local people in those villages were not able to meet the Special Rapporteur.


One local LORC chairman told that on 6 November Col Myoe Myint, battalion commander of LIB 343 summoned all members of LORC to come to Kalaw Gyi Village. The commander instructed them that as Prof Yozo Yokota would visit the railway construction site on 9 November, they should not bring the aged persons and children to the worksite and if the professor asked anything about the labour, everybody should answer that they were doing it voluntarily and it was not forced labour and that any aged persons and children were not used to contribute labour.


On 7 November, as the chairman of Ye Township LORC changed the worksites for the villagers from Han Gan, Kalaw Gyi, Maokanin, who were nearly finished their assignment, to another worksite, those villager were very angry and quarrels broke out among the labourers. When Yozo Yokota went back, Ye Township LORC re-assigned them to their former worksite in order to avoid tension among the villages in time.


The reality at the railway construction site which was not allowed to be expressed to the Special Rapporteur remains a whisper at different worksites along the on-going railway line. Until 31 December, many local people were forced to contribute corvee labour for the worksite from Nat Gyi Zin to Tavoy. [source: DPNS/NLD-LA/NMSP]




LIB 406, stationed near Paukpinkwin Village, Yebyu Township, forced the villagers to saw the timber for the troops’ own benefit. Each 10 villagers were assigned to saw the timber for every two days and were then forced to carry the timber to Nat Kyi Zin Village. Villagers were also demanded by the military to pay 300 Ks for monthly “porter fees”. [source: CPPSM/DPNS/NLD-LA]


SLORC is now having a road built between Bo Pyin and Lay Nya in Mergui-Tavoy District, a distance of over 30 km. Since early December 1993, SLORC LIB 358 under Maj Chit Maung has forced 5 villages to labour on the road; Taung Din, Taung Yai, Chao Mun, Bong Kun and Lay Oo Thaung. Every family is assigned 10 feet of road to complete by themselves; most of the work involves breaking and carrying rocks, and it takes most families 15 to 20 days to complete their assignment. They come the 3 or 4 km from their village to the road and live on the roadside in shelters. They are given no pay or rations, and must bring all their own food. Families are threatened with a fine of 7,000 Ks if they do not go to do the work, and some families have hired others to go in their place for 3,000 Ks, if they can afford it. Recently SLORC also ordered the people of Monora Village to come and work on the road, but this village has strong connections with the KNU and they did not go or pay the fine. As a result, the SLORC fired 5 shells into the village, killing one villager and wounding 3 others. The villagers then saw no alternative, and went to work on the road. Work on this road is still going on now; to finish 30 km with each family building a stretch of 10 feet will require the enslavement of about 10,000 families.


Throughout all Karen areas, everyone in villages near military supply roads is now regularly forced to work maintaining the road and sweeping it for mines, often several days a week. All villages within reach of SLORC army camps are forced to send slaves on a rotating basis to do all manual labour at the camp, such as digging trenches and bunkers, building fences and barracks, chopping firewood, carrying water, cleaning, and serving as messengers. The villagers are also forced to send all required building materials to the army camps, as well as meat, vegetables, and rice. [source: KNU]


[see also under “Eye-witness Accounts” for forced labour, interview 8, 10-12, 21, 24, 29-32, 34-35, 37, 39, 42-57, 59-62, 65-74, 79-94, 99-102, 108-109, 114-116, 119, 121-129, 137, for slavery, interview 1-4, 6-9, 17-20, 32-33, 36-39, 58, 64-65, 102, 104, 108-111, 113, 115, 130-143]


List of Incidents


Since January, villagers in Mone Township, Nyaunglebin District, have been forced to dig an irrigation canal at Tha Htay Gone Village for 150 troops of SLORC LIB 73 led by Capt Ha Shin and company commanders Lt Aung Nai and Tun Tun Oo. All the villagers in that area have to take turns doing 3-day rotating shifts of hard labour on the canal. When a village has its turn, 200 people from that village must go for 3 days, bringing their own food. They receive no pay or compensation. The villagers were also press-ganged into backbreaking forced labour in the construction of a road that links Boggle and Pa Lay Wa villages. They had to work not only as corvee labourers but also bring their own food covering their own expenses. The funds originally provided for this "development projects" have already flowed into the
pockets of the SLORC military officers who forced the local people to contribute labour at gunpoint. [source: ABSDF]


On 21 January, local SLORC authorities and IB 26 stationed in Mone Township, Pegu Division, demanded the local people in Tha Htay Gone and Nga Lauk Tet villages to send 20 villagers in order to harvest crops in the Tha Htay Gone area. [source: ABSDF]


On 2 March, Col Sein Tun of military column 2 of SLORC IB 55 forced the local people in Klaw Mhee Deh, Leh Khalr Deh and Hu Mu Deh villages in Taungoo District to carry their rations and equipment from Palet Wa to Klaw Mhee Deh at gunpoint. On the same day, Col Win Maung, tactical commander of SLORC Central Command, forced the villagers in Bawgali Village, Than Daung Township, at gunpoint to carry rice for troops.


On 10 March alone, over 100 Burmese were deported to Kawthaung (Victoria Point) by 6 boats. When they arrived Burma, they were taken to the worksite for the construction of Boke Pyin-Kawthaung Highway and the Ye-Tavoy railway line and forced to work there at gunpoint by SLORC. [source: FTUB]


Since 18 April, military columns from SLORC IB 263 under the command of 1st MSC (Western), arrested 5 villagers from every village in Taungoo District and forced them into portering. This column also harassed local people in Kyauk Kyi Township while the 1st and 2nd columns of IB 26 under the command of Southern Command had been asking money from traders in Kaseldo, Ye Wai, Taw Ku, Soe Phyu Gone and Chat Gyi districts at gunpoint. [source: KYO]


On 21 May, SLORC troops from IB 39, Southern Command, demanded 4 porters from Lay Kay Village, Taungoo District (two of them being for long journeys and the other two for short journeys). The former had to pay 3,000 Ks per person and the latter 700 Ks each for their eventual release. [source: KYO]


On 21 June, SLORC 2nd Column of IB 263 led by Maj Htay Aung, under the command of 1st TOC of Western Command, arrested traders from Tu Mae Daw and Leh Kalar De villages in Taungoo District, Pegu Division, taking away 200,000 Ks in cash and press-ganging the victims into porterage. [source: KYO]


In October, SLORC troops from IB 62, led by Deputy Bn Comdr Than Win, Capt Aung Lwin and Coy Comdr Capt Aye Min entered Kaw Kha Taw, Kyaw Tan and Kaw Goe villages in Kyaikmaraw Township, arrested the people on sight and forced them into portering regardless of their age. As the victims could no longer bear the burden of carrying heavy loads and exhaust, fled for their lives. [source: DPNS/NLD-LA/NMSP]


Since October 1994, all citizens from every household in Tavoy, Tenasserim Division, has paid SLORC a monthly ransom of 500 Ks to local LORC to spare them from contributing labour for the construction of the railway line. SLORC fixed the rate at 500 Ks with the reason that they have to pay Ks 100 to each hired hand every day. Aside form that ransom for the construction of railway line, inhabitants in Tavoy have also been forced to pay monthly “porter fees”. Each household has to pay 50-100 Ks. But local people living in Tavoy Township were forced into portering. Each household was ordered to send one family member. For one time, he/she had to contribute labour for 15 days. All the households in the villages were forced to send somebody else under rotating basis to contribute labour. Local people living in Ye, Thanbyuzayat, Mudon in Mon State and Ye Phyu, Thayetchaung, Laung Lon and Tavoy townships in Tenasserim Division. [source: CPPSM]


On 6 November, the Ye Township LORC issued a secret order to the villages in Ye Township demanding for compulsory contribution of labour from local people in order to dig a pit and build an earthen embankment for the railway line. That secret order set a 7 November deadline for 11,850 labourers from 29 wards/villages in Ye Township to be ready at the construction site. It also said that all the labourers must bring required construction tools, cooking materials and food for one week. Worksite 1 in Chaung
Taung Village was assigned 2,000 labourers, Worksite 2 in Ka Lawk Village was assigned 3,700 labourers, Worksite 3 in 9-Mile Village was assigned 6,150 labourers from respective villages. All these areas were regard by SLORC as “White Areas” (purely a SLORC-controlled area). Other areas in Ye Phyu Township were regarded as “Black Areas” (not controlled by SLORC troops but ethnic/democratic forces) and every household was order to send one family member to contribute unpaid labour. In November alone 30 households of local Mon and Karen villagers from Ye Phyu Township escaped to Pa Yaw refugee camp, situated along the Thai-Burmese border. [source: CPPSM/NMSP]


On 13 November, IB 349 arrest men and women from the villages of Thamain, Setsu, Anyar Su, Weinbet in Wall Township and Donzayit, Kwin Seith, Nyaung Che Tauk, Zalote Kyi from Shwe Kyin Township and taken as porters by force to Thein Za Yat.


On 15 November, the soldiers from IB 57, 59, 349 and 350 came and taken the villagers from Donzayit Village including Htay Min (28) and Soe Nai (30). There are about 600 people taken as porters for the offensive to Bike Kyi The Ma (Pregnant Woman Hill). Due to maltreatment of troops, reportedly some porters died in the way. Two of the victims escaped on 2 December 1994. They were:


Name:    Ko Htay Min

Sex:        Male

Age:        28

Family:  Parents, U Tun and Daw Khin; Wife Ma Htay Win   

Address: Don Za Yit Village, Shwe Kyin Township, Pegu Division


Name:    Ko Soe Naing

Sex:        Male

Age:        30

Family:  Unmarried; Parents, U Tut and Daw Hli

Address: Don Za Yit Village, Shwe Kyin Township, Pegu Division


On 19 November, residents in Shwe Kyin Town were arrested by a military column from IB 350 led by Lt Col Khin Maung Kyi. Among the victims was 34-year-old Ko Soe Win (son of U Aye and Daw Aye Chit) who is married to Ma Khin Mar Win and has one daughter. He was arrested in a teashop while visiting Shwe Kyin (he lived at No 222, Pyi Daw Thar Street, Pegu, where he did odd-jobs). Arrested by the military, he experienced fighting on the way and was given only a small meal. When he suffered from malaria, he was not given proper treatment. He escaped on 2 December 1994 from Bike Gyi The Ma Taung although he had malaria at that time.


On 17 November, approximately 200 SLORC troops from IB 350 led by Column Comdr Maj Tin Oo Lwin arrested some 60 males and females from villages in Kyauk Kyi, Kyauk Tagar, Shwe Kyin townships in Pegu Division and press-ganged them into portering, forcing them to carry heavy loads of ammunition and rations to the troops' operational zone in the eastern mountain range. Porters were fed a small meal and those who could no longer carry their loads were kicked into a ravine.


On 17 November, 300 SLORC troops from IB 151 led by Lt Col Kyaw Kyaw conscripted about 90 men and women from Tan Bo Village and Kyauk Kyi Town at gunpoint and forced them to carry ammunition and rations for the army to Baw Ga Dar outpost in Shwe Kyin. Each porter who could pay a ransom of 1,000-2,000 Ks was released.


On 2 December, during fighting, 3 porters took the chance to flee, but one of them died from malaria and the maltreatment he had received from soldiers. On 9 December, the following escaped to the revolutionary area: Maung Win (45, son of U Aye) and Daw Aye Kyi from Ta Yoke Tan, living at Nyaung Wine Village, Shwe Kyin; Maung Tin Aye (25, son of U Hla Maung and Daw Boke Sohn) living at Ta Yoke Taug, Nyaung Wihe Village, Shwe Kyin; Naung Than Moe, younger brother of Maung Than Na who died on 3 December due to malaria.


From 7-9 December, in order to attack the 7th Bn of the KNLA, under the command of 3rd Brigade, SLORC troops arrested local people in Pegu Division and forced them into portering. As the Shwe Kyin-based IB 57 undertook the same method on 9 December at 11:00 a.m., in which a student, namely,
Maung Saung Tin (aka Phoe Saung), was gunned down, being hit in right upper arm and at the chest. The victim was shot by warrant officer Kan Myint (aka Kan Pu) near Myat Mon Clinic and Pattamya Bookstore, located in the Kye Nan Tan Quarter in Shwe Kyin. While the victim was taken for treatment at Myat Mon Clinic, officers from IB 57 took him by saying that they would transfer him to Mingaladon Military hospital in Rangoon. Until the last week of December 1994, the bullet lodged in the lung of the patient has not been taken out and the condition of the victim has become fatal. The victim was a 10th standard student and also a trishaw driver living at Zee Taw-Hpwe Gone Quarter in Shwe Kyin. The above-mentioned arrests and forced portering was committed by SLORC troops in Shwe Kyin, Thein Zayat, Kyauk Kyi, Mone and Nyaunglebin townships in Pegu Division in the second and third weeks of December 1994. [source: NLD-LA]


Local people in Waw and Shwe Kyin townships in Pegu Division have been conscripted and forced into porterage for military operations. On 12 December, not only men but also women living in Ye Tha Mein, Set Su, Ah Nyar Su and Wine Bat villages in Waw Township, Pegu Division, and Don Sayit, Kwin Seik, Nyaung Che Dauk and Sa Loke Gyi villages in Shwe Kyin Township, Pegu Division, were press-ganged into porterage at gunpoint by IB 349. The people were loaded into a boat on the following day and taken to Thein Zayat. [source: NLD-LA]


On 17 December, in an interview with a DVB reporter, a victim who fled from a porter “concentration camp” revealed that about 600 porters were forced to live at Bike Gyi The Ma Taung along with 3 companies from IB 350. Since they were arrested, they were not fed sufficient food with enough nutrition to survive along the way, and those who suffered from malaria were not given any treatment. This led to many porters’ untimely deaths. 3 victims escaped from that concentration camp while fighting took place on 2 December, as they were unable to bear the insufficient food, lack of necessary medical treatment, beatings and forced labour. They are still suffering from malaria. The 3 victims who escaped are:


Name:    Maung Win

Sex:        Male

Age:        45

Family:  Parents, U Aye and Daw Aye Kyi; Wife

               Ma Thein Hla

Address: Chinese Quarter, Nyaung Wine, Shwe

               Kyin Township, Pegu Division


Name:    Maung Tin Aye

Sex:        Male

Age:        25

Family:  Unmarried; Parents U Hla Maung and

               Daw Boke Sone

Address: Chinese Quarter, Nyaung Wine, Shew

               Kyin Township, Pegu Division

Name:    Maung Than Naing

Sex:        Male

Age:        24

Family:  Parents, U Shwe Mohn and Daw Ohn

               Kyi; Wife, Ma Myint Hmi

Address: Chinese Quarter, Nyaung Wine, Shwe

               Kyin Township, Pegu Division

Name:    Maung Than Moe

Sex:        Male

Family:  Parents, U Shwe Mohn and Daw Ohn

               Kyi; younger brother of Than Naing

               and detained on the same day as him.

               Died of malaria on the way while they

               were fleeing, 3 December 1994.


Maung Win and Maung Tin Aye were arrested by Coy 3 of IB 350 led by Coy Comdr Capt Htein Lin at 5:00 a.m. on 11 November on their way to the farm. They were forced to crush paddy from the field on their way to Bike Gyi The Ma Taung. Extra paddy was burnt down by SLORC troops. The captives were not fed enough, only to keep alive. No treatment was administered or offered whenever one of the victims suffered from malaria, but instead received beatings when they asked for medicine.


Than Naing and Than Moe were arrested by IB 350 at 5:00 a.m. on 11 November on their way to Shwe Kyin. They were forced to carry artillery shells. While there was fighting on 29 November, the four of them escaped from the military column. On 3 December, Maung Than Moe died of malaria and of bruises which he received because of carrying overly heavy loads. [source: NLD-LA]

Coy Comdr Win Zaw from Coy 4 of IB 73, stationed at Kyun Pin Seik outpost, Htantabin Township, Pegu Division, summoned local people living in nearby villages at gunpoint and forced them to build paddy stores. Then the villages were also forced to store their own paddy at these stores. Moreover, on 23 December, Comdr Win Zaw summoned LORC in nearby villages to come to Nikaw Ta Plaw Village. Without specific reason, they were demanded to give money by Win Zaw. The rate was 2,000 Ks for Nikaw Ta Plaw, 1,000 Ks for Warko Klar, 1,000 Ks for Mi Phle and 3,000 Ks from Don Nyar Lar villages. Kyun Pin Seik outpost is headed by Win Zaw and Josef on a rotational basis. During this term Josef was the responsible person for the outpost and he forced the villagers to build more sentry posts. Every 10 villagers were assigned sentry duty at one post. More sentry posts were also forced to be built along the way from Kyun Pin Seik and Ok Lok Khi villages. If one post was less than the number as fixed by Josef, each one of the villagers in that sentry post was forced to pay 25,000 Ks. [source: NLD-LA]


In January 1995 there was a cultural show in Hkamti Township, Sagaing Division. As members of SLORC in Rangoon came and observed the entertainment, the township LORC ordered the people in each township to perform at that show. On 3 January 1995 while the villagers in Kon Kai Lon Village, Lae Shi Township, Sagaing Division, were rehearsing for this entertainment, SLORC troops arrived at the village and opened fire on them. Although there was no casualty, this event barred the villagers to perform as ordered. The villagers are in fear of punishment which is beyond their speculation. [source: NLD-LA]