For the Executive Committee of UNHCR
EXTRACTS ON RAKHINE (ARAKAN) STATE FROM
FORCED LABOUR IN MYANMAR (BURMA)
Report of the Commission of
Inquiry appointed under article 26 of the Constitution of the International
to examine the observance by Myanmar of the
Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
Geneva, 2 July 1998
".... the situation in the northern part of Rakhine State appears to be more severe in all respects than that prevailing in most other parts of the country. Most of the witnesses questioned on this subject, who were members of the Rohingya ethnic group, and who had left the country very recently, claimed to have been subjected to systematic discrimination by the authorities
"All the information
and evidence before the Commission shows utter disregard by the authorities
for the safety and health as well as the basic needs of the people performing
forced or compulsory labour. Porters,
including women, are often sent ahead in particularly dangerous situations as
in suspected minefields, and many are killed or injured this way. Porters are
rarely given medical treatment of any kind; injuries to shoulders, backs and
feet are frequent, but medical treatment is minimal or non-existent and some
sick or injured are left behind in the jungle. Similarly, on road building
projects, injuries are in most cases not treated, and deaths from sickness and
work accidents are frequent on some projects. Forced labourers, including
those sick or injured, are frequently beaten or otherwise physically abused by
soldiers, resulting in serious injuries; some are killed, and women performing
compulsory labour are raped or otherwise sexually abused by soldiers..."
(ILO Report, para 535)
BURMA PEACE FOUNDATION
85, Rue de Montbrillant, 1202,
Tel/Fax (+41-22) 733 2040; Email email@example.com
The following extracts from the 392-page ILO Report, which include all the summaries of testimony from Rohingyas, have been assembled to emphasise the gravity in human rights terms of forced labour and associated human rights violations in Burma, particularly in Arakan State. Instances of killings, torture (including rape) ill-treatment, racial and religious discrimination, forced relocation, deprivation of food and medical treatment, principally in the context of forced labour are placed in bold, as is the use of children for forced labour. Instances of forced labour itself are not highlighted, this being the main focus of the report. Some references to UNHCR, however, are emboldened. This document is offered to the Executive Committee of UNHCR because public and private statements by senior UNHCR officers, as well as reports from the field, suggest that the agency does not appreciate or acknowledge the full seriousness of these violations.
In the view of the Burma Peace Foundation (BPF) , these extracts, if compared with earlier reports, indicate that there has been no fundamental change in the human rights situation in Arakan since the UNHCR established a presence there in April 1994, and that the Rohingyas fear of persecution is well-founded. They are discriminated against on racial and religious grounds both in law (the racist Citizenship Law of 1982 deprives the Rohingyas of Burmese citizenship) and in daily life, expecially by the military. Most evidence cited is from people who left Burma over the past year, some just weeks or days before giving testimony.
UNHCR claims that the human rights situation in Arakan State has improved since the agency established a presence there; that, for instance, forced labour for returnees has been reduced. Even if we concede that this may be so in some areas over certain periods of time, the issue is whether the improvement is such as to remove the basis of the fear of persecution. That this is not the case has been indicated by successive reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar and numerous reports from human rights and humanitarian organisations, which maintain that the situation of human rights in Burma remains extremely grave, with the Rohingyas experiencing particular discrimination.
These reports have now been corroborated by an ILO Commission of Inquiry of the highest standing, which carried out a superlatively thorough and extensive investigation over more than a year, involving the receipt of more than 9,000 pages of written evidence (including submissions from UNHCR), and video and photographic evidence. It conducted hearings in Geneva and carried out a fact-finding mission in the region during which testimony from 246 witnesses and victims of forced labour was heard.
The report of the ILO Commission of Inquiry demonstrates that Rohingyas have a well-founded fear of persecution in the form of killings, torture (including rape), forced relocation and ill-treatment, all clearly rooted in discrimination based on race, religion and gender.
The contrast between these reports and UNHCRs contention that with its presence in the country, return is safe, highlights crucial questions of minimum conditions of safety for return; what criteria should be used, what methods of fact-finding and analysis would provide an adequate assessment of these conditions, and what will happen when UNHCR pulls out in a few years. The contrast would also suggest the value of enhanced collaboration between UNHCR and such expert entities as the International Labour Organisation and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights -- the latter being entrusted by the General Assembly with the responsibility for the "Coordination of the human rights promotion and protection activities throughout the United Nations system" (UNGA Resolution A/48/141 para 4 (I)).
UNHCR has a statutory obligation to provide international protection to refugees, and to promote and protect human rights in accordance with the UN Charter and general international law. This means providing protection in the country of refuge, and ensuring that refugees are not sent back or otherwise required to return to a country in which their lives and liberty will be at risk. If UNHCR is unable to provide effective protection in Burma then, given its knowledge of conditions, it should not promote, facilitate or be party to repatriation in these circumstances.
Burma Peace Foundation, Geneva, 7 October 1998
EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORT
The Commission of Inquiry was composed of:
The Right Honourable Sir William DOUGLAS, PC, KCMG (Barbados), former Ambassador; former Chief Justice of Barbados; former Chairman, Commonwealth Caribbean Council of Legal Education; former Chairman, Inter-American Juridical Committee; former Judge of the High Court of Jamaica; Chairperson of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
Mr. Prafullachandra Natvarlal BHAGWATI (India), former Chief Justice of India; former Chief Justice of the High Court of Gujarat; former Chairman, Legal Aid Committee and Judicial Reforms Committee, Government of Gujarat; former Chairman, Committee on Juridicare, Government of India; former Chairman of the Committee appointed by the Government of India for implementing legal aid schemes in the country; member of the International Committee on Human Rights of the International Law Association; member of the Editorial Committee of Reports of the Commonwealth; Chairman of the National Committee for Social and Economic Welfare of the Government of India; Ombudsman for the national newspaper Times of India; Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Geneva; Vice-President of El Taller; Chairman of the Panel for Social Audit of Telecom and Postal Services in India; member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee; member of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
Ms. Robyn A. LAYTON, QC (Australia), Barrister-at-Law; Director, National Rail Corporation; former Commissioner on Health Insurance Commission; former Chairperson of the Australian Health Ethics Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council; former Honorary Solicitor for the South Australian Council for Civil Liberties; former Solicitor for the Central Aboriginal Land Council; former Chairman of the South Australian Sex Discrimination Board; former Judge and Deputy President of the South Australian Industrial Court and Commission; former Deputy President of the Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal; member of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
5. VISIT BY THE COMMISSION TO THE REGION
(1) PROCEDURE FOLLOWED BY THE COMMISSION
77. The members of the Commission also considered it appropriate to supplement the information in their possession by visiting the region so as to meet the largest possible number of persons and organizations which could provide it with information on the practices referred to in the complaint.
78. This visit was particularly important after the refusal of the Government of Myanmar to receive the members of the Commission; it enabled the members of the Commission to form a direct impression of the situation described in the complaint, acquire personal knowledge of the circumstances described in
the mass of documents submitted to them and assess the veracity of the allegations in the complaint. In doing so, the Commission exercised its fact-finding and inquiry functions.
79. With a view to making the optimum use of its time and determining the places that it wished to visit, the Commission established in advance a detailed plan of the journeys it intended to make and informed the competent authorities of its need to visit India, Bangladesh and Thailand during the period from 18 January to 20 February 1998. 80. During the inquiry that it carried out in the region, the Commission obtained personal testimonies from close to 250 persons. These testimonies were obtained with the assistance of persons and non-governmental organizations working in the areas concerned. At the request of the Commission, these people and organizations were asked to identify a pool of potential interviewees in relation to which the Commission gave explicit instructions that the witnesses be selected at random and not have been questioned previously on the matters that it was investigating, save preliminary identifying data. This request was made in order to avoid potential duplication with other statements already provided to the Commission as well as to minimize risk of any tainting of evidence together with ensuring currency of information. The Commission expressed the desire to cover as much of the territory of Myanmar as possible and in this spirit to interview people from the largest possible number of regions and belonging to a range of ethnic groups without distinction. Given the large number of interviews, priority was given to witnesses with the most recent experiences. The Commission also considered it important to include as witnesses persons who had served in the armed forces of Myanmar.
81. In view of the considerable number of persons that it could interview and in order to conduct as many interviews as possible, the Commission often split into three groups, with one member of the Commission and one member of the secretariat comprising a team. Each team then obtained testimony from witnesses. This procedure varied on one occasion in Thailand when the Commission was unable to obtain access to available witnesses. In that circumstance the Commission authorized a person who was able to obtain access to potential witnesses and who took the testimony of eight such witnesses. This person had previously given evidence before the Commission in Geneva(70) concerning his professional experience and his taking of earlier statements from persons who had experienced or witnessed matters relevant to the inquiry. The Commission gave instructions to the person as to the scope of the interviews and the manner in which they should be carried out. The Commission, on the basis of this person's previous evidence and experience, as well as on the debriefing which followed the interviews, satisfied itself that the testimonies obtained were voluntary and reliable.
82. In making these arrangements it became obvious that witnesses feared reprisals from the authorities; the Commission in the interests of obtaining full and accurate information decided it was appropriate to grant some measures of protection under which names and other identifying information would not be divulged. However, the Commission considered it essential that the summaries of these testimonies, from which this information had been removed, should be made public and form part of the report.(71)
83. The Commission took testimonies from witnesses on an individual basis. Exceptions were made in some cases where persons were from the same family or locality or interview conditions were not conducive to such an approach. In these cases a person's statement was taken and corroborated by others in a small group. In cases in which interpretation was necessary, the Commission selected the interpreters in advance and required them to make a statement in which they undertook to translate faithfully the statements of the witnesses. In addition, a member of the secretariat, fluent in Burmese, was able to ascertain that the translations were true.
84. Men, women and children were interviewed. In the latter case in particular, the Commission assured itself that the witness understood the mandate of the Commission and the need to tell the truth. The interviews were conducted under conditions ensuring full confidentiality to the persons concerned. Since several persons interviewed now lived in distant areas which were closed to the members of the Commission, they were transported and interviewed under conditions ensuring the safety of all concerned. For each witness, the Commission commenced by obtaining the identifying information necessary for the purposes of verifying, comparing and corroborating the various accounts of the facts. It then questioned the witnesses on their relevant personal experience of the practices referred to in the complaint and verified in particular the year, duration, location, context and conditions under which such practices were carried out. Furthermore, it questioned the witnesses on experiences that others may have recounted to them, including their family, close friends and any other persons. Each witness was given the possibility of making a personal statement. Where appropriate, the Commission also questioned witnesses on their political affiliations or allegiances.
85. The method of recording information was by handwritten notes taken by the Commission; because of their copious nature were later summarized. The Commission abandoned the taking of tape-recordings because of physical difficulties of use, particularly with interpreters; also interviewees felt less intimidated, given the environment in which many interviews took place: in huts, on the ground, out in the open and in a factory.
(2) PERSONS AND WITNESSES INTERVIEWED
86. The Commission went to India, Bangladesh and Thailand to meet with persons able to provide it with relevant information concerning the complaint. Their ages varied between 12 and 72; the vast majority of the factual elements presented by these persons occurred over the last year or two.
89. The Commission travelled to Bangladesh, where it stayed from 23 January to 3 February. While in Dhaka from 23 to 27 January the Commission met representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and non-governmental organizations who could provide it with information identifying the most appropriate places to meet persons with personal knowledge of the matters referred to in the complaint.
90. From 27 January to 3 February 1998, the Commission visited Cox's Bazar, a town located a few kilometres from the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar. A total of over 71 testimonies were gathered from interviews held in the town and the neighbouring areas.(73) Most of the persons interviewed were of Rohingya origin and came from the northern part of Rakhine State, which some of them had only left a few days earlier. Several of them had no fixed accommodation and were forced to live with no shelter.
91. The Chairperson of the Commission visited the Ministry of Labour and Manpower of Bangladesh on 2 February 1998 in Dhaka. During his visit, the Chairperson explained the origin and mandate of the Commission and the reasons for its presence in the region.
12. FINDINGS OF THE COMMISSION CONCERNING THE FACTS(309)
B. GENERAL PATTERN OF CONDUCT BY MYANMAR AUTHORITIES
274. Information provided to the Commission indicated that the Myanmar authorities, including the local and regional administration, the military and various militias, forced the population of Myanmar to carry out a wide range of tasks. Labour was exacted from men, women and children, some of a very young age. Workers were not paid or compensated in any way for providing their labour, other than in exceptional circumstances, and were commonly subjected to various forms of verbal and physical abuse including rape, torture and killing. The vast majority of the information covered the period since 1988, the year in which the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) came to power. While the information indicated that the use of forced labour for all the purposes discussed was prevalent since at least 1988, the use of forced labour on infrastructure-related work appeared to have been much less common before 1992. In the paragraphs which follow, some indication of the range of purposes for which labour was requisitioned will be given, as it appears from the various documents and testimony provided to the Commission.
275. The information provided indicated that Myanmar's military and various militias made systematic and widespread use of civilians to provide logistical support. This most commonly involved the use of porters to carry a range of supplies and equipment. In comparison to other forms of compulsory labour, the treatment of porters, especially during military offensives, was particularly brutal; such porters were also likely to be exposed to danger in combat situations.(316)
292. The information before the Commission was that the penalties for failing to comply with forced labour demands were harsh. Punishments included detention at the army camp, often in leg-stocks or in a pit in the ground, commonly accompanied by beatings and other forms of torture, as well as deprivation of food, water, medical attention and other basic rights. Women were subject to rape and other forms of sexual abuse at such times. The first person to be punished if a village failed to comply with demands for forced labour would usually be the village head. For this reason, the position of village head was an unpopular one, and it was often rotated among those villagers competent to do the job, in some instances with each villager having a rotation of as short as two weeks. Also, it was mentioned that villages often chose older women to be village heads, because the villagers felt that in virtue of being women they were likely to be treated less brutally, and by virtue of their age they were less likely to face rape or other sexual abuse.(336)
317. Female porters were sometimes raped or otherwise sexually abused by soldiers.(379) Porters who walked too slowly were regularly beaten with sticks, punched, kicked, hit with rifle butts or prodded with bayonets.(380) Porters who were persistently slow, or who were unable to carry their loads because of exhaustion, sickness or injury were often severely beaten and forced to continue, or if this was not possible they were abandoned or killed.(381) The killing of porters who could not continue appeared to be more common in potential conflict areas.(382) In such areas, porters were usually not shot, but were beaten to death, had their throats cut, were thrown from the sides of mountains, were thrown into rivers with their hands tied behind their backs, or were burned alive.(383) Porters who were able to carry their loads at the required pace, who did not slip or fall and who were otherwise obedient were generally not beaten.
318. In addition to those who were executed, many porters died from disease, particularly malaria and gastrointestinal infections. Malaria was particularly endemic in the densely-forested mountainous regions away from Myanmar's central plains where most armed opposition to the government was located. In addition, porters were not provided with any form of prophylaxis and were rarely given medical treatment or medication of any kind.(384)
319. Porters were also exposed to dangerous combat situations.(385) This could include exposure to mines and other kinds of booby-traps, ambushes and major or minor battles. There appeared to be no attempt made by military units using porters to minimize the exposure of porters to such situations. On the contrary, soldiers sometimes forced porters to walk ahead of them in areas where mines, other booby-traps, or ambushes were suspected in order to minimize the exposure of troops to such dangers; if they were carrying ammunition, porters also had to take this to soldiers requiring it during battles.(386) There were also reportedly cases of soldiers forcing porters to exchange clothes with them, in order to draw enemy fire.(387) Many porters were killed or injured in this way.(388) Compensation for death or injury, or medical treatment in the event of injury, appeared to be minimal.(389) In cases of death, the family of the porter was not normally notified.
320. To prevent their escape, porters were guarded at all times. During the day they were often tied together, or to their loads, and they were kept guarded in bunkers or tied together in groups at night.(390) At night, they often had to sleep in the open, with no shelter or blankets provided, even in cold and wet situations. During actual fighting, where they might be able to take advantage of the confusion to escape, porters were often kept in the middle of the soldiers so as to make escape more difficult.(391) Former porters mentioned that it was less feasible to try to escape when they had been sent by the village head in response to an order from the military, because their identities, or at least the identity of their village, was known to the troops, and so they, their families or village could face problems. Porters who had been arrested directly by passing troops could not be identified as easily in this way, and so they were less likely to face problems if they managed to escape.
348. There is ample evidence before the Commission concerning the general conditions in which portering from one camp to another or during military operations or patrols is carried out and the ill-treatment to which the porters are systematically subjected. The persons requisitioned are not paid,(456) and if they are fed, the food is insufficient and of poor quality.(457) The witnesses often mentioned a portion of rotten rice so tiny that it could be held in the hollow of one hand. To prevent the porters from fleeing, they are sometimes chained up and closely guarded.(458) When injured or ill, all the porters questioned claimed never to have been given the necessary medical attention, some of them having even been left behind alone in the jungle.(459)
349. If the porters cannot keep up with the column, or if they show any sign of weakness, the military do not hesitate to beat or violently punch them, causing injuries which can have serious if not fatal consequences.(460) On other occasions, the military did not hesitate to shoot porters(461) because they were too weak, had tried to escape or simply with a view to inspiring fear and terror in the other porters.(462)
353. In addition to constructing and repairing the camps, the villages would also have to provide a number of workers on a permanent basis to carry out a number of services at the camps, such as cleaning and maintenance, cooking, collecting water or firewood, washing clothes and acting as messengers. It was these messengers who would normally deliver written orders or summonses from the camp to village heads, in addition to carrying out a variety of other tasks for the army camp or its officers.(467) These workers were often women, sometimes because the camp specifically demanded women, but often because this was generally a less arduous form of forced labour than others such as portering, for which men from the household tended to go. Army camp workers might be able to return home at night, but in certain circumstances this might not be possible, either because they were not permitted to do so, or because of the distance of the village from the army camp. In such cases these workers had to stay at the army camp for a number of days, until replacements arrived from their village, in accordance with the schedule arranged by the village head. In such circumstances, women were particularly at risk of abuse and rape. This did not appear to be uncommon. However, abuses other than sexual abuse of women appeared to be less common than with portering and some other forms of forced labour.(468)
372. As for the general conditions under which these tasks are performed, the workers are not fed,(514) and sometimes even have to bring food to the military.(515) The workers are neither paid(516) nor compensated for the materials that they have had to provide.(517) Some have been subjected to ill-treatment resulting in serious injuries(518) and most are constantly exposed to insults and violence.(519) Abuses of a sexual nature would also appear to have been perpetrated in some cases by the military(520)
418. The workers were usually supervised by the military, though on certain projects soldiers might not be actually present all the time. Since the military knew who had been assigned to which section, they were able to take action if a certain piece of work was not completed, and thus did not necessarily need to be present while the work was being carried out (though they often were). Workers were usually forced to work for long hours, typically between eight and 12 hours per day,(647) with only a one-hour break for lunch in the middle of the day. Workers were usually not permitted to take rest breaks at other times.(648) Workers were subject to verbal and physical abuse by the soldiers overseeing the project, particularly if they were not working to the satisfaction of the soldiers; some workers had died as a result of physical abuse.(649) Cases of soldiers raping female workers were not uncommon.(650) Punishments given to workers in cases where they were perceived to be working badly or refused to carry out forced labour included kickings, punchings, beatings with canes, sticks or pieces of bamboo, arrest and detention at a military camps, confinement in stocks, or in some cases severe torture or execution.(651)
432. Working conditions are arduous,(697) and the working day is long, varying from 8 to 12 hours.(698) The work is sometimes accompanied by ill-treatment, including beating and kicking.(699) Acts of torture or extreme violence, including rape, also occur.(700) Some workers have died as a result of complications due to hunger, malaria, other infectious diseases and lack of timely medical care.(701)
435. Finally, the situation in the northern part of Rakhine State appears to be more severe in all respects than that prevailing in most other parts of the country. Most of the witnesses questioned on this subject, who were members of the Rohingya ethnic group, and who had left the country very recently, claimed to have been subjected to systematic discrimination by the authorities; the discrimination took the form, in so far as work on the roads is concerned, of an overwhelming workload.(708) In fact, the work is not really organized systematically;(709) the Rohingyas may be required to work by any authority, be it the army, the NaSaKa or the local police. The order may come via the village head or directly from any authority that needs workers for a given job. Working conditions are excessively arduous; tasks must be performed in an atmosphere where insults, abuse, ill-treatment and torture are commonplace.(710)
457. The workers are neither paid(783) nor fed(784) and sometimes have to spend several nights on the site of their work assignment.(785) Several witnesses stated that they could avoid having to perform this work if a replacement was found.(786) Finally, the conditions under which the work has to be performed are arduous; the workers are frequently subjected to ill-treatment or other violations of fundamental human rights, including acts of torture.(787)
482. "Menace of any penalty".(833) As indicated above,(834) orders for the requisition of labour or services do not make reference to powers under the Village Act or the Towns Act or any other legislation. Neither do they specifically refer to the penalties laid down in section 12 of the Village Act and section 9A of the Towns Act for failure to comply with a requisition,(835) although a few of the orders that were submitted to the Commission refer in general terms to punishment under the legislation in force.(836) However, as indicated in Part B of Chapter 12(837) and confirmed by the evidence set out in Part C of Chapter 12,(838) the written orders to provide porters and labourers which are sent to village heads by the local military or civil administration typically contain some overt or implied threat to anyone refusing to comply.(839) Penalties and reprisals imposed in practice for failing to comply with labour demands are very harsh and include physical abuse,(840) beatings,(841) torture,(842) rape(843) and murder.(844) Also, in order to be exempted from labour assignments given to them, people have to pay sums of money,(845) and likewise people directly rounded up by troops for portering may obtain their release only by paying a substantial sum of money.(846) Thus, the labour and services imposed in practice on the civilian population by formal requisition or direct round-up, as evidenced in Chapter 12, are covered by the definition given in Article 2, paragraph 1, of the Convention, which refers to "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty(847) and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily" -- the only exception being labour or services performed by any substitutes hired by some of those called up for labour or services.
530. Failure to comply with a call-up for labour is punishable under the Village Act with a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month, or both, and under the Towns Act, with a fine.(985) In actual practice, the manifold exactions of forced labour often give rise to the extortion of money in exchange for a temporary alleviation of the burden,(986) but also to threats to the life and security(987) and extrajudicial punishment of those unwilling, slow or unable to comply with a demand for forced labour; such punishment or reprisals range from money demands(988) to physical abuse,(989) beatings,(990) torture,(991) rape(992) and murder.(993)
534. The burden of forced labour also appears to be particularly great for non-Burman ethnic groups,(1007) especially in areas where there is a strong military presence,(1008) and for the Muslim minority, including the Rohingyas.(1009)
535. All the information and evidence before the Commission shows utter disregard by the authorities for the safety and health as well as the basic needs of the people performing forced or compulsory labour. Porters, including women, are often sent ahead in particularly dangerous situations as in suspected minefields, and many are killed or injured this way.(1010) Porters are rarely given medical treatment of any kind;(1011) injuries to shoulders, backs and feet are frequent,(1012) but medical treatment is minimal(1013) or non-existent(1014) and some sick or injured are left behind in the jungle.(1015) Similarly, on road building projects, injuries are in most cases not treated, and deaths from sickness and work accidents are frequent on some projects.(1016) Forced labourers, including those sick or injured, are frequently beaten or otherwise physically abused by soldiers, resulting in serious injuries;(1017) some are killed,(1018) and women performing compulsory labour are raped or otherwise sexually abused by soldiers.(1019) Forced labourers are, in most cases, not supplied with food(1020) -- they sometimes even have to bring food, water, bamboo and wood to the military;(1021) porters may receive minimal rations of rotten rice,(1022) but be prevented from drinking water.(1023) No clothing or adequate footwear is provided to porters, including those rounded up without prior warning.(1024) At night, porters are kept in bunkers or have to sleep in the open, without shelter or blankets provided, even in cold or wet situations, often tied together in groups.(1025) Forced labourers on road and railway construction have to make their own arrangements for shelter as well as all other basic needs.(1026)
SUMMARIES OF TESTIMONY
Age/sex: 48, male
Family situation: Married with six daughters and two sons
Occupation: Farmer with 16 khani (6 acres) of land
From: Chit Chapandaw, Maungdaw township,Rakhine State(village had 25,000 to
30,000 inhabitants, it was situated close to a NaSaKa camp; population mainly Rohingyas)
The witness left Myanmar because (1) the Government had seized his land; and (2) he had been subjected to forced labour. He left Myanmar in early January 1998. It had become increasingly difficult for a Rohingya to travel freely in Myanmar (he could not, for example, go to Yangon). So far as the expropriation of his land was concerned, the NaSaKa seized his land five years ago to distribute it to the other inhabitants who were Rakhines. He said he received no compensation. Having been deprived of his land, he was taken on as a day labourer in the same village. With regard to forced labour, his village was close to a NaSaKa camp. Orders to carry out work were given orally. They came from members of the NaSaKa who transmitted them through the village head. They informed the village head of their needs and he had to assemble the necessary labour. All the Rohingya men had to perform work for the NaSaKa. He did not see Rakhines doing this type of work. Three years ago (when he was 45), he had to (i) transport wood for construction; (ii) help with agricultural work; and (iii) work as a porter. Transporting wood. He had to do this more times than he could count. It was difficult to say how many times: when members of the NaSaKa needed him, they called for him. All men (women were not requisitioned for forced labour) had to do this work. Two men were required to transport wood. The total number of workers depended on the needs of the NaSaKa, but could be as many as 200. A whole day was needed for a single tree (it took three hours to cut down a tree). The forest was quite a long way from his village. It was always possible to give bribes to be exempted. Agricultural work. He had to help more times than he could count in growing rice on land held by Rakhines. This work was required in the two annual growing seasons and had to be performed three days a week during harvests, which lasted for two months. He was not paid. He was not given food. He had to bring his rice. The same persons were required to do this work as for the transporting of wood. There were no children. Portering. He had also worked as a porter for the NaSaKa and had to take food from one place to another more times than he could remember. He began at the age of 43 (five years ago) at a distance of three to six kilometres from his home. The assignments generally lasted a day. The same persons were required to do this work as for transporting wood. Lastly, he had to stand guard for the NaSaKa to intercept persons coming from the sea. He had to do sentry duty 12 nights a month. The same persons were required to do this work as fortransporting wood. Treatment. He was threatened badly by members of the NaSaKa. He was beaten at least 25 times and had his hair cut off for falling asleep on the job. Two people were killed last year in his village by the NaSaKa. His view was that the NaSaKa used people as if they were beasts of burden. Taxes. The NaSaKa informed the village head of the amount of taxes and he had to see to it they were collected. People had ten days to pay. These were monthly taxes. The amount had increased over the years and fluctuated considerably depending on the building work undertaken by the NaSaKa. He had to pay these taxes since childhood. Only the Rohingyas had to pay these taxes. If people did not have enough money, they had to sell their property to pay the taxes.
Age/sex: 28, male
Family situation: Married with wife and two children; parents
From: Chit Chapandaw, Maungdaw township,Rakhine State (village had 25,000 to
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of January 1998. When he was requisitioned for work, the order came from the NaSaKa who used the village head as an intermediary. The village head sent a messenger to inform the persons selected of the work they had to carry out. NaSaKa camp. He first had to perform work for a NaSaKa camp at the age of 18. The work involved cutting wood and building the camp. He had to perform carpentry work. On each occasion, the assignment lasted between ten and 15 days. He had been forced to carry out this work every year since then, as the buildings had to be renovated. He also had to repair the fences. He worked at the camp for the last time one-and-a-half months before his departure. Portering. He had to work as a porter from the age of 12. Men and children were requisitioned for this work when the NaSaKa had to transport materiels or munitions from one camp to another. He estimated he worked as a porter on average two or three times a month. Not all the portering work was for the same camps. The duration of the assignment depended on the length of the journey, but was generally for two days to cover between 16 and 20 kilometres. He last did portering work around 25 days ago. Shrimp farming. Since the age of 12, he had to work on a shrimp-farming project belonging to the NaSaKa. He had to work there twice a month each year during the two growing seasons. He had to perform this work every year. Since 1991, he has also had to help the Rakhines during the two annual growing periods. Sentry duty. Lastly, he had to stand guard from time to time. When this occurred, the work lasted 24 hours, uninterrupted. Treatment. The workers were beaten if they did not work according to orders received and at a satisfactory pace. He was beaten five or six times himself, the reason given in each case was for being slow. Taxes. The amount of taxes varied considerably. When an official of the NaSaKa visited the camp, the villagers had to pay. The amount of taxes varied depending on the number of visits.
Age/sex: 45, female
Family situation: Widowed with two sons (one of whom is deceased), four grandchildren and one daughter-in-law
From: Kulung, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had 1,300 families)
The witness left Myanmar at the end of December 1997. Her son was first requisitioned for forced labour at the age of 12. He had to perform forced labour until his death at the age of 30. He had to clean camps, build houses, and transport wood and sacks of rice. Her son had to work on average 14 days per month (in rotation). The schedule was not fixed, however, since the men were requisitioned as required by the NaSaKa. The other men in the village were subject to the same treatment. Members of the NaSaKa personally threatened her when she objected to them taking the fruit from a tree which was on her land. She heard that members of the NaSaKa had sexually assaulted women when the families objected to them taking their possessions.
Age/sex: 50, male
Family situation: Married with wife, one son, two daughters and one son-in-law
Occupation: Farmer (7 khani [2.6 acres] of land) and fisherman
From: Chit Chapandaw, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had 25,000 to 30,000 inhabitants)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of January 1998. He was forced to work for the military in Myanmar. Land cultivation. He had to do this for the Rakhines. Rice and peanuts were the crops involved. The growing season spread over three months. He could not do anything else during that period. Also, in the dry season, he had to clear the land and put up fencing. He was not paid. Portering. He had to do this twice a week (by rotation). The rest of the time he could work on his own land. Sentry duty. This was night work. On numerous occasions he witnessed acts of violence by NaSaKa members. There was a torture cell at the NaSaKa camp. The NaSaKa used stocks. These were used as a punishment for the workers whowere ill or refused to work. He had personally been used more than once to pull a plough like a buffalo. On one occasion, 100 other people received the same punishment for being slow. The day lasted six hours. Finally, as regards taxes, twenty five per cent of his produce had to be given to the NaSaKa. He received no compensation for this.
Age/sex: 66, male
Family situation: Married with three sons and one daughter
Occupation: Farmer with 7 khani (2.6 acres) of land
From: Mehru, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar at the end of 1997. There was a NaSaKa camp near his village in Rakhine. The camp was built by the men from his village. He said the NaSaKa had requisitioned him for work. His (eldest) son had given him the money to pay for a substitute. Each time, his son had to pay 50 kyat. He lost count of the number of times he had to pay. He estimated that he might have paid this sum on average five to seven times per month. The son had to use his savings or sell his possessions (chickens, chillies) to be able to give his father this money. His son (the eldest one, the others being too young) did work for the NaSaKa, particularly transporting wood from the forest to the camp. His son has had to bring wood to the camp at least ten times a month over the last twenty years. The son was beaten with a stick by NaSaKa members on three occasions because he was slow. He also had to pay taxes on numerous occasions. They had to draw on their savings to pay. If they did not have the money, they had to sell their possessions (livestock, chickens). The amount of the taxes varied. The witness told of his despair. He had no work, no country and no future.
23 to 28
Ethnicity: All Rohingya
Age/sex: 65, male (witness 23); 30, male (witness 24), 58, male (witness 25); 35, male (witness 26); female (witness 27); and 24, male (witness 28)
From: Various villages in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State
(Witnesses 23 to 28 were interviewed together)
The witnesses left Myanmar between one and two months ago. They had to do work for the NaSaKa on several occasions. Some of them had to work on average ten times per month (for instance, growing rice: witness 24). In early January 1998, witness 25 saw his son beaten because he fell asleep while on forced sentry duty for the NaSaKa. His son's leg was broken. he did not receive medical treatment. Witness 23 was used three times to pull a plough like a buffalo, as a punishment.
Age/sex: 45, male
Family situation: Married with one son and three daughters
Occupation: Farmer with nine khani (3.4 acres) of his own land
From: Lamarpara, Rathedaung township, Rakhine State (military camp one km from his village)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of 1998 because of the forced labour, which prevented him from providing for his family's needs. The order usually came from the military, who passed it through the village head. All males over the age of 12 had to perform forced labour. It was not paid. He generally had to take his own food. He could not refuse. Each family had to provide one man. It was possible to pay a substitute or make bribes. In his case, he did not have the necessary money. He was maltreated on several occasions. He was given no medication or medical treatment. Construction of embankments. He had to do this approximately twice a week, every two months. Some 500 people worked with him. The work was overseen by a Rakhine. It was performed at a Government shrimp farm. He was neither paid nor compensated in any way whatever. He was physically maltreated. He was beaten on at least six occasions with a wooden stick when he took a rest. He did this kind of work four months before his departure. Agriculture. He had to bring his own plough. He had to do this one month a year for six years. A sector was assigned to ten families. The work generally began around 6.30 a.m. and ended at nightfall. He was allowed one hour's rest at lunchtime. He was not paid. He did not receive any rice in compensation. He was subjected to physical ill-treatment. Portering. He had to do portering two months a year for six-and-a-half years. The assignments lasted between one and four days each time. Around 120 other porters were requisitioned to work at the same time. He had to bring his own food. There were no shelters to sleep in. He had to carry goods and munitions for the military from one camp to another. He did not see any armed conflicts. The loads weighed around 40 kg. He was subjected to maltreatment, generally inflicted because he had not understood the orders (language problem). He was beaten at least twenty times (beaten with a stick and kicked). He reported back pains which are presumably the result of these beatings. Woodcutting. He had to cut the wood required for the building of soldiers' housing or to be sent to other districts. He had to do this work one week per month for six-and-a-half years. He could be away for more than a week on this work. He slept in the fields. On each occasion he worked with at least twenty other men. He did not have to pay taxes.
Age/sex: 30, male
Family situation: Married with wife, mother, two brothers and four sisters
Occupation: Owner of a small grocer's shop
From: Nasil Para, Sittway (Akyab) township, Rakhine State (village had 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants; the village was relocated some four years ago with other Rohingya villages. It was originally sited close to a main road. It was moved near to the sea.)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of 1998. He had to work for the military. He was not paid. No one could look after his business while he was away. All the Rohingyas had to do forced labour. His brothers and father also had to do forced labour. There was no woodcutting or transporting of wood in his area, since there was no forest. All the work was done for the military. He was physically ill-treated. Five days before his departure for Bangladesh, he was beaten because he had been unable to carry the load allotted to him. He suffered from back pains as a result of this beating. It was possible to pay bribes: 1,000 kyat would buy a week's rest. He did not personally have the resources to pay for a substitute. The orders came from the military, but were transmitted through the village head. The soldiers sometimes came directly to people's houses. One kind of forced labour he had to do was carrying stones. He had to do this three months a year for 15 years. Every working day involved ten trips with stones. The last time he had to do this was a fortnight before he left. The tools were provided by the military. The stones were mainly used in road-building. They had to be crushed. The road on which he worked was a seven kilometre road in the district of Sittway (Akyab). He also had to work building bridges. He also worked on the construction of military camps. Each family had to pay 50 kyat if a new military group came to the region. In addition, on one occasion he was taken as a porter to Shan State.
Age/sex: 45, male
Family situation: Married with four daughters, four sons and two grandchildren
Occupation: Rice farmer with 12 khani (4.5 acres) of land
From: Kulung, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had 300 families; several had left the village)
The witness arrived in Bangladesh with his family at the beginning of 1998. Orders for labour generally came from the military, but were transmitted through the village head. If the village head did not provide the necessary labour, the military came directly to the houses. When he was away, no one could tend his land. For that reason, he wanted his sons to do the work for the military. However, the army preferred him to his sons, as they were less strong (being around 15 years old). All the men in his village had to do work for the military. His brother was murdered after having denounced (in rudimentary English) the practices of the NaSaKa to the UNHCR. He was hanged. Building military camps. For six to seven years, he had to work on camp construction for around ten days a month. He had to make the wood and bamboo structures. One hundred and fifty persons were requisitioned for this work on each occasion. He also had to build houses for the Rakhines. He did this work five days before leaving for Bangladesh. He was paid. He was sometimes subjected to maltreatment. A man from his village had been killed five days before his departure for Bangladesh for having refused to do the work demanded of him. The family of the deceased had also left the village. Portering. He did portering for the military on more than a hundred occasions over three years. Between Kulung and Akyorata (24 km). The assignments generally lasted for a day. He had to do it four times a month. Between 100 and 150 persons were requisitioned each time. They all came from his village. He was paid 15 kyat (a negligible sum) by the NaSaKa for each assignment. If he fell behind, he could be beaten. The last time he had to act as a porter was the day before he left for Bangladesh. Clearing grass. He had to do this five times a month for six to seven years. He was not paid. He also had to pay 100 kyat per month to the NaSaKa in taxes.
Age/sex: 25, male
Family situation: Single; two brothers (one deceased) and three sisters (father died in July 1991)
Occupation: Farmer (rice paddies and vegetables) -- 16 khani (6 acres)
From: Lawadok Pranshi, Buthidaung township Rakhine State (village had 1,700 families)
The witness left Myanmar in the course of January 1998 because he could no longer tolerate the abuses of the authorities. The NaSaKa took his land from him in 1995, leaving his family only the ground on which their house stood. His father was killed by the NaSaKa after contacting UNHCR because one of his sons had not come home after an assignment. Work for military camps. He had to do various different types of work for the battalion 21 camp: clearing the forest and carrying rations between the main road and the camp (one kilometre). He had to do this from 1995 onwards. As he no longer had any land, he worked for the military in the evening and was a day labourer by day. He occasionally received two kilos of rice and one kilo of dal. He had suffered ill-treatment. As the military camp was adjacent to his house, the soldiers came to fetch him directly or used a loudspeaker to call him when he was needed. He has been beaten because the pace of his work was not satisfactory. Some 2,000 people had been requisitioned to build one military camp. Portering for military operations. In April 1991 he worked as a porter for military operations in the hills against opposition forces. He had to carry the baggage. He had to do this on two occasions. Each time, 400 people had worked with him. He was not paid, but he was fed. The porters were frequently ill-treated. He said 50 died on one of these assignments, and 25 on the other. Some porters who could not keep up with the pace of the march were pushed off the hillsides. The soldiers frequently assaulted girls at night. Rape was commonplace over the last two years or so. The girls were rounded up and offered to the soldiers. He personally saw this happening. His own sister had been assaulted less than a month before. He was present. He resisted, but was beaten and forcibly taken to another room.
Age/sex: 35, male
Family situation: Married with one daughter and two sons
Occupation: Farmer with nine khani (3.4 acres) of paddy fields (this was an area where there is only one rice crop per year).
From: Lamarpara, Rathedaung township, Rakhine State (very remote coastal village)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of January 1998 because he was no longer able to provide for his family. This was his first time in Bangladesh. The Government had seized half his land in 1996 and the rest in 1997, leaving him only one khani. The NaSaKa set up camp in his village in 1996/97. Before that period he had not been subjected to forced labour (very remote village). He worked on embankments for shrimp breeding ponds. He had to do this 15 days a month for seven months. Ninety to 150 people worked alongside him on this. He received two kilos of rice. He could not refuse. He knew men in his village who had been tortured because they had refused to do work. They were kept in a dark room. That episode had occurred about a year ago. He could not pay to be replaced or bribe the soldiers. He last did this work 12 days before he left. With regard to portering, he had to go with the army in April 1997. This was an operation against the RSO. The army deployed the porters in the front line in such a way that the RSO would hit them first if they opened fire. He had to carry equipment, food and munitions. He had to stay 41 days in the deep forest with the military. There were 90 other porters with him. Apparently, no one died that he knows of. He was not paid. To feed himself, he received a daily ration. He was beaten on three occasions with a wooden stick. Taxes. He had to pay taxes to the NaSaKa amounting to 150 to 200 kyat a month. The NaSaKa or the village head came directly to his house to collect the payment.
Age/sex: 50, female
Family situation: Widowed with three daughters and one grandson
Occupation: Husband was a small trader (grocer)
From: Chin Taung, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar at the end of 1997. Her husband died four years ago. She sold the shop. She worked in her village as a day labourer for neighbours. She had seen people forced to work on road-building (earth moving) and the construction of military camps. Her husband had worked on the construction of a road between her village and Buthidaung four and a half years ago. She last saw forced labour two months before she came to Bangladesh. This was on road repairs and the building of a military camp. In the former case, 50 people were moving earth. A Rakhine was overseeing the work. She saw soldiers physically maltreating villagers. She had to pay taxes amounting to 30 kyat to the military just before leaving. She did not know the reason for this payment. These taxes were collected by the village head.
35 and 36
Age/sex: 30, female (witness 35); 45, female (witness 36)
Family situation: Witness 35 widowed with one son; witness 36 married with two sons and one daughter
From: Chit Chapandori, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (there was a NaSaKa camp in the village)
(The two witnesses gave evidence together)
The witnesses arrived at the end of 1997. They had seen forced labour being performed for the NaSaKa. The NaSaKa members came to the house of a neighbour of witness 36 just before she left for Bangladesh. Twelve to 20 persons were requisitioned on this occasion to carry baggage. The same had occurred several times before. The assignment could vary and might last between half-a-day and a day, about four times a month. Villagers were also requisitioned to clean the NaSaKa military camp.
Age/sex: 35, male
Family situation: Married with three sons and two daughters
Occupation: Farmer (paddy fields) - ten khani (3.8 acres)
From: Dumsofara, Rathedaung township, Rakhine State (there was a NaSaKa camp in the village)
The witness left Myanmar at the end of 1997. He has had to perform various kinds of work such as: construction of military camps; digging work for breeding ponds; woodcutting and road-building. He had to do digging work for ponds less than one month before his departure. With regard to woodcutting, some 50 to 60 people had worked with him. He had to transport the wood that had been cut and work on the building of camps. He had to do this work 15 days a month, six months a year, for around five years. He worked on the building of the road between his village and Chilkali. The road was for the exclusive use of the NaSaKa. For five to six years, 14 to 15 days a month were taken up by forced labour which had to be done for the NaSaKa. He had been beaten for refusing to work. He left Myanmar because of the forced labour and scarcity of employment.
Age/sex: 40, male
Family situation: Married with three sons and three daughters
Occupation: Farmer (rice paddies)
From: Dumsofara, Rathedaung township, Rakhine State (NaSaKa camp in the village)
The witness left Myanmar in early 1998 because life had become intolerable there on account of the abuses of the military. He had to perform the same kinds of forced labour as witness 37. For five to six years, 14 to 15 days a month were taken up with the forced labour which had to be done for the NaSaKa. Furthermore, even if the assignment was for a given number of days, the men had to wait for their replacements to arrive before they could leave the work. As a result, they always stayed longer than the expected number of days. The orders came from the NaSaKa, who used the village head to transmit them. It was possible to gain exemption by paying the sum of 200 kyat to the NaSaKa on each occasion. He had paid this sum on four occasions. He could not refuse to work. He was beaten by the soldiers for arriving late at the place of work and for refusing to work. He was occasionally paid by the NaSaKa, in which case he received ten kyat.
39 and 40
Age/sex: 30, male (witness 39); 45, male (witness 40)
Family situation: Married with two sons and one daughter (witness 39); married with two sons and two daughters (witness 40)
Occupation: Day labourer (witness 39); Farmer (witness 40)
From: Barachara, Rathedaung township, Rakhine State (NaSaKa camp nearby)
Witnesses left Myanmar at the beginning of 1998. Witness 40 had to leave because the Government seized all his lands. He had no means of providing for his family anymore. They had to perform various forms of forced labour such as sentry duty, woodcutting and carrying rations. This work was unpaid. For over four years, witness 39 lost an average of 13 days a month carrying out work for the military. Between 40 and 50 people worked at the same time as he did. Witness 39 last had to do forced labour on the day before his departure. As far as portering was concerned, the assignments usually lasted one day. On one occasion, witness 39 had to go into the deep forest for a seven-day period; he had to accompany the troops on an operation against the rebels. He did not see any fighting. However, two rebels were arrested in Rakhine State. Both witnesses said that if asked, they could not refuse to work. Witness 39 was beaten about one-and-a-half years ago for attempting to run away from the work site to which he had been assigned. He was kept in a darkened room and beaten with a wooden stick.
Age/sex: 35, male
Family situation: Married with three sons and four daughters
Occupation: Farmer with seven khani (2.6 acres; vegetables and rice, which meant he could benefit from two harvests)
From: Rajal, Rathedaung township, Rakhine State (most of the inhabitants of the village were Rakhines. All the Rohingyas left the village at the end of 1997. There was a military camp nearby - 15 km from his home, just outside the village - and a NaSaKa camp, closer than the military camp)
The witness had to leave Myanmar at the end of 1997 because, for the last five years, the military had been seizing 50 per cent of his harvests annually (50 per cent of 2,800 kilos of rice). Even by leasing neighbouring land, he was no longer able to meet his family's needs. He took part in the construction of the NaSaKa camp and carried out certain work there afterwards: cutting the grass, maintenance. Three months before his arrival, he worked on the renovation of the NaSaKa camp which had begun two years before. He worked as a day labourer for the NaSaKa camp on average four days a week for five months over a five-year period. Ten to 12 people worked with him. The work involved carrying bamboo sticks, attending to the camp's drainage system and putting up protective spikes. Any reluctance to do the work could lead to beatings. He was beaten on several occasions by the NaSaKa. On one occasion, the inhabitants complained to UNHCR representatives, who made an enquiry. In reprisal, he and some other villagers were severely beaten with wooden sticks. He was usually not paid. No food was provided either. His sons were too young to be requisitioned for forced labour. However, all Rohingyas had to do work for the military. Not the Rakhines.
Age/sex: 20, female
Family situation: Married with one son and one daughter
Occupation: Owner of a cart
From: Koalong, Sittway (Akyab) township, Rakhine State
There were more than 1,000 families in the witness's village. The entire village disappeared four years ago. The military pushed the inhabitants out towards Maungdaw. The families were scattered so as to prevent any communication between them. She had gone back eleven months later to the region where her village had originally been, until the military had again forced them to leave. The witness suffered a great deal of abuse from the military both in the region of Akyab and of Maungdaw. All Rohingya men had to do forced labour. The work consisted mainly in working for the camps: cleaning sanitary installations, carrying equipment and goods, repairing houses. Each family had to provide a member. The work was not paid. Any refusal could lead to a beating.
Age/sex: 38, male
Family situation: Married with three daughters and one son
Occupation: Small trader - commerce - livestock
From: Gediporaung, Rathedaung township, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar at the end of 1997. He was fishing in a river and some NaSaKa members asked him to take them across. Once they had crossed the river, they took him to the camp and beat him on the pretext that he did not have the right to fish in that river. He was imprisoned but managed to escape. His family joined him later. He had to act as a porter for the army in a military operation against the Karenni one year before he left for Bangladesh. He stayed six months with the army on the Thai border. Around 3,500 porters had been recruited for 7,000 soldiers. He was caught up in five to six armed conflicts with the Karenni. In these cases, the soldiers ordered the porters to lie on the ground. When a soldier was killed, the porters recovered his weapon, which they then handed back to the sold ers. He was not paid. He was not always fed. There were no shelters to sleep in. Apart from this, he had done other forced labour. The NaSaKa, the army, the police and the customs authorities had camps near his village. As a consequence, he was constantly requisitioned throughout the year by one or other of them. For the NaSaKa, the work involved was related to the camp: putting up defensive spikes, cutting grass. He worked on average 15 days a month for 10 to 12 years. Torture was frequent. Each camphad its torture cell. Orders to provide labour were given by the village head. He also had to pay taxes more times than he could recall. On one occasion he had refused and was beaten.
Age/sex: 60, female
Family situation: Married with two sons, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren
Occupation: Farmer -- 21 khani (7.9 acres)
From: Eindaung, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (the village had 500 families)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of 1998 because she could no longer bear the torture performed by the military and police authorities. She estimated that no less than 100 families had left Myanmar to come to Bangladesh. The military had seized a large part of her land (14 out of 21 khani), not leaving them enough land to provide for themselves. All adult males had to do portering. They had to carry goods from one camp to another for the military. Four days a month. Never paid. With regard to camp work, they had to work for the soldiers' families: washing their clothes, fetching water, cutting the grass. Her son and grandson were killed by the NaSaKa because they were suspected of being informers for international bodies, particularly UNHCR. She never got her son's body back. The orders were generally given by the village head. The soldiers sometimes came directly to the houses to requisition men. Torture was commonplace. These practices commenced with the arrival of the military seven years ago. Any refusal could be punished by a beating. The military used a red-hot iron for torture (or burned the chin with a cigarette-lighter). If a family did not provide what the NaSaKa requested, then the women were threatened.
Age/sex: 40, male
Family situation: Married with one son and two daughters
From: Fatur Kila, Sittway (Akyab) township, Rakhine State (village had around 1,200 houses)
The witness left Myanmar in early 1997 because life had been made intolerable there. Three years before, his village had been relocated to Maungdaw. The Government had made insufficient land available for the 1,200 families in his village. It had become impossible to survive. He had to carry out forced labour at Kawalaung and Maungdaw. In the former case, there was no NaSaKa camp. Only the military and the police were present. His lands were seized by the authorities to redistribute them to the Rakhines. He had to help them cultivate them. He also had to work on road-building for six years. At Maungdaw, he had to work on road-building and in military camps (cleaning, grass-cutting, installation of drains). He did this work on average four times a week. The orders came from soldiers, who sent them through the village head according to their needs. There was no real schedule. Beatings were frequent. Rest periods were not tolerated. He had personally been beaten three or four times by the NaSaKa. He saw several people being beaten. Some had died. He had to pay taxes to NaSaKa. The amount varied. A typical sum was 1,000 kyat. He had to work as a daily labourer to obtain the money to pay these taxes. Refusal to pay could lead to torture. There was a torture cell in the NaSaKa camp. Stocks were used. Victims' legs were chained up and their arms were immobilized. The person could not move.
Age/sex: 40, female
Family situation: Married with four sons and two daughters
Occupation: Farmer with ten khani (3.8 acres; vegetables and rice, so as to have two harvests)
From: Kulung, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had 200 families)
The Government had seized 50 per cent of their land. This process began six years ago. The family had to leave Myanmar at the end of 1997 as they were no longer capable of producing sufficient rice to feed themselves or pay taxes to the government on the remaining land. Forced labour was commonplace. The Rohingyas had to build houses, carry baggage, provide wood and help the Rakhines. They also had to do sentry duty along the border. On average three days a week over the last six years had been lost on this work. The number of days could sometimes be as high as ten to twelve a month. Orders were given by the village head. Any refusal could result in a beating. Her husband had been beaten by the NaSaKa (hit with sticks about the knees and elbows; he was subsequently unable to work). The reason for this was that he was absent because he had been requisitioned to work on another site. She saw other men who had been beaten by the NaSaKa (blows to the head, hair cut off). Young women who were attractive to the military were taken to the camp. She had personally been taken to the camp and spent four nights there. She had not been sexually abused. She had nevertheless been beaten because, being ill, she had refused to go and work in the fields. After paying a bribe to the NaSaKa, she was able to return home. Over the last six years (i.e. since the building of the new camp), she had to pay a sum of around 50 kyat per month to the NaSaKa. If the villagers were not able to pay, they were arrested and held in the camp - this had happened on numerous occasions in her village.
Age/sex: 40, male
Family situation: Married with three sons and one daughter
Occupation: Farmer -- 8 khani (3 acres)
From: Hiderya, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (a village of around 50 families)
The witness had to leave Myanmar at the end of 1997 with 50 other families as he was no longer able to provide for his family's needs, the Government having seized his land a year before. He then had to work as a day labourer. He was also forced to work in military camps and cut wood. He might work for a month without interruption. This assignment could be repeated on average four times a year. He was not paid. The orders were given by the village head. People who refused to work were taken to a torture room in the military camp. They were generally beaten. He was personally tortured 20 days before his arrival in Bangladesh. His arms and legs had been fixed to a piece of wood. He had been kept in this position for two days. For the last six years he had to pay 200 kyat to the NaSaKa on a regular basis. The amount might vary. Any refusal could be punished by a beating or torture.
Age/sex: 22, female
Family situation: Married with one son and one daughter
From: Borosola, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (the village had a population of 3,000)
The witness left Myanmar on account of the forced labour and abuses perpetrated by the authorities. She was accompanied by 20 other families, all from her village. Fifty to 60 families from his village arrived two months before. She had to perform forced labour: building and repairs at a military camp; building Rakhine houses; portering; and woodcutting. She had to do this for the last six years, 15 days a month. She was not paid. She did not receive any food. Orders were transmitted by the village head. Any refusal could lead to a beating by NaSaKa. Her husband had been beaten several times by the NaSaKa for refusing to obey orders. He had been seriously injured in the back. She knew several other people who had been beaten. She had apparently also been threatened by the NaSaKa when she refused to give them her chicken. She had to pay taxes to the NaSaKa, 100 kyat a month for six years. The sum had increased over the years (at the beginning, it was around 50 kyat). She also had to hand over some of her possessions (chickens or other things).
Age/sex: 25, male
Family situation: Married with two daughters
From: Fatur Kila, Sittway (Akyab) township, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in 1997 with 100 other families from his village. There were previously 1,200 families in his village. All these families had left over recent years. He said the Government had transferred them to Maungdaw. He had been transferred back to his village eight months later with around 275 other families to help in construction work for the military. He then went to Buthidaung (the hills). He stayed there for five days. He said he had performed forced labour for the military after his transfer to Maungdaw. Among other things, he had to carry water, make the necessary repairs to the camp, cut wooden poles for building and repairs, and act as a porter from one camp to another. He had to work for the camp ten to 15 times a month. He had to do the same kind of work the same number of times a month (ten to 15) when he went back to his village. The work was for the NaSaKa and the police. At Buthidaung he had to perform work for the NaSaKa. This was mainly woodcutting. He last had to do this kind of work four days before his arrival in Bangladesh. He had a small income in Maungdaw from selling wood. He was beaten on two occasions when portering for not being able to carry the load allotted to him (a table). He had pains in his back which were a result of the loads he had to carry.
Age/sex: 22, male
Family situation: Mother, father, three older brothers (and their wives and children)
Occupation: Student (farmer)
From: Taungpyo, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had 800 families)
The witness couldn't take the swearing and beating by the NaSaKa any more, so he left Myanmar in 1992. He was taken for portering by the NaSaKa once when he was about 13. He was returning from school at about 4 p.m. and the NaSaKa took him at gunpoint. He told them he was a student, but they punched him and told him that they didn't believe him. He had to carry weapons and food over a distance of 12 miles. The NaSaKa beat the porters and did not give them enough food (only one spoonful, and only rice or curry, never both). There were 200 or 300 other porters. Other members of his family also had to do forced labour (father and older brothers). Once they had to dig bunkers at the NaSaKa camp. They were also forced to do cultivation for the NaSaKa. One person from each family had to do this, for one day at a time. They usually had to do 12 days of forced labour per month. If villagers worked slowly, when they were tired, the NaSaKa said "fucking Indians" and beat them. They were beaten with bamboo sticks, which caused cuts on the skin like a knife. Once his little finger was broken when he was beaten. All the village had to do the same kind of forced labour; villagers also had to give provisions such as chickens, goats, coconuts and chillies to the NaSaKa camp. After he came to Bangladesh other families from his village also came; they are in the camps. Only one or two went back.
Age/sex: 25, Male
Family situation: Twenty people, including mother, father, brothers, sisters and their families (he is youngest of his brothers and sisters)
Occupation: Cultivating land and fishing
From: Taungpyo, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in 1992. The NaSaKa forced them to work, including building roads and cleaning their camp. The NaSaKa used to make work for them sometimes, by making the camp dirty just so they had to clean it. When the NaSaKa went on patrol they took Rohingya students with them as porters (but not Rakhine students). He had to go many times, sometimes for one day, sometimes for up to 3-4 days. The NaSaKa used to take students as porters, because when they went on patrol the villagers were working in the fields and could not be found in the village, so it was easier to find students. The NaSaKa were usually in groups of 25-35, and they would take a similar number of students. The students were given food, and if they obeyed orders they were not mistreated, but if they argued or were unable to do what they were ordered, the soldiers would abuse them. He was never beaten, but he saw others beaten. If the Rohingyas performed prayer or other religious duties, the NaSaKa didn't like it and tried to prevent it. He also had to go to the forest and cut trees for timber. He had to do this many times when he was a student. His younger and older brothers also had to do forced labour, but this was not talked about in his household, as he came from an upper-class family. He knew that other people from his village had to do other kinds of forced labour, but he never witnessed it himself. The NaSaKa didn't bother about written orders or informing the village head, they just grabbed whoever they needed directly. He knew of people who died while carrying out forced labour. One person who was 16 or 17 could not carry the big log he was ordered to, fell down and so was kicked to death by the NaSaKa. He saw the body himself. Forced labour was a very big burden for the people because it meant that they were unable to earn a living. They also had to pay taxes to the NaSaKa--25 tin (bushels) per acre of land (with only one rice crop per year). They also received random orders from NaSaKa camps to give cash or food. These taxes were only exacted from Muslims, not Rakhines. After 8th Standard he moved to Maungdaw (he was 18 or 19) and stayed with his brother there. He managed to avoid forced labour while in Maungdaw, by running away when troops came around rounding up people for forced labour. When he was in Maungdaw, an allegation was made against prominent Muslim students (including him) that they were RSO, but he was not in fact an RSO member. This was the reason he fled to Bangladesh.
Age/sex: 21, male
From: Taungpyo, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in 1990. He was a shopkeeper with quite a big shop and good trade. His shop was in the market, and the NaSaKa used to come and buy goods at the market, then forced him to carry these goods to their camp, so he lost business because he had to close his shop when he did this. He was targeted for this portering because as a shopkeeper he had to remain in the market, whereas other people would run away when the NaSaKa came to the market to avoid being taken as porters; the NaSaKa did not allow him to try and find a replacement that he could hire to go in his place. He would usually have to carry the goods to the NaSaKa camp at about 4 pm, and if the camp was near he could return the same day. Sometimes he was prevented from leaving after he had carried the goods to the camp, and was forced to stay at the camp, for up to 4 days. Once he tried to ask the NaSaKa to find someone else to be a porter, because he had a shop, but one of them threw a knife at him, which cut his knee. Other times he was beaten, and was bruised, but received no permanent injuries. He also had experience of being taken as a porter while travelling on the road.
Age/sex: 20, male
Family situation: Nine (including parents, younger sister, younger brother, wife and children)
Occupation: Casual labourer, collecting firewood/bamboo for sale, as well as cultivating his 8 khani (3 acres) of land
From: Chin Taung, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (village had 8,000 families)
The witness left Myanmar at the end of 1997 with all nine members of his family and along with many others from his village. Five hundred other families from his village have come to Bangladesh in the last two years. In Chin Taung the people were not able to do their own work, because of forced labour. Sometimes they had to do 12 to 14 days forced labour at a time, and they had to take their own food; sometimes they did not have enough food for the whole period and went hungry. Sometimes they only had five days break before being called for forced labour again. He had to do an average of 15 to 18 days of forced labour per month, so he had no time left to earn a living. Sometimes the NaSaKa would steal the food that the villagers brought with them, sometimes in order to eat it, but sometimes they would just throw it away to make problems for the people. He was beaten many times, sometimes without any particular reason; once he was punched several times in the chest by a soldier wearing a ring. They also had to pay a tax of 50 kyat and 20 chickens per fortnight, but they were usually unable to pay the cash. When this happened, they were punished by having their head, arms and legs put in stocks. This never happened to him, but it happened twice to his brother, for about eight hours at a time. Only Rohingyas had to pay tax and do forced labour. He wanted to move to Olafe village (because of excessive taxation and forced labour in Chin Taung), but this needed permission from the Village-tract LORC Chairman, which required 500 kyat. He did not have this money, so he moved without obtaining permission. After eight nights at Olafe he was arrested and then beaten by the Village-tract LORC Chairman for not obtaining the required permission, and forced to pay 1,000 kyat. Five days before he fled to Bangladesh, he had to stay 17 nights for forced labour carrying rice bags for the military. When he returned to his house he had no food, so he sold his cow for 6,000 kyat (1,000 kyat of which was taken by the NaSaKa in tax) and left.
Age/sex: 27, female
Family situation: Seven (husband and five children)
Occupation: Family cultivated their own land
From: Khandong, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (village had 900 families)
The witness left Myanmar at the beginning of 1997 with her family (she had left before in 1992 but went back). Fifteen days before she fled, a SLORC minister arrived in the village by helicopter and announced that a pagoda was to be built in the village. After this other SLORC officials arrived and announced that 60 families were to be forcibly relocated to make way for this pagoda, and that they had to move within 15 days. Another, larger area (300 families) also had to relocate within three months. This larger area was for Rakhine people to settle - since there was a pagoda, the officials wanted it to be a Buddhist village. The people in her village had to do forced labour. Groups of 20 to 40 people were taken away for periods ranging from seven days to three months. They had to construct roads, clear jungle, level ground. There was forced labour every month; her 12 year old son also had to do it. This had been going on since before the first time she fled to Bangladesh. The only thing that had changed after she returned to Myanmar was that there was then also portering for the patrolling NaSaKa, as well as the other kinds of forced labour. They had to do seven days of forced labour at a time, with seven days' rest in between, but the forced labour period was often more than seven days, and could be up to one month. Only Rohingyas had to do forced labour. When she returned to Myanmar in 1995, there was similar taxation and forced labour, but the duration of forced labour had increased from about three days at a time to up to 14 days at a time. The tax which had to be paid was a proportion of the rice crop; tax also had to be paid for renovating a house and for the birth of livestock or sale of livestock (700 to 1,000 kyat); one time her brother-in-law's house burned down and he had to pay tax to the NaSaKa to rebuild. She knew one person who was killed while doing forced labour. The person went for seven days of forced labour, and was killed because he was working slowly. The person was asked to clean the yard, and was slow to comply and tried to refuse, so he was beaten with a stick above the ear, and died. He was 30. The body was not returned. She also knew of another villager whose hip was fractured. She also heard that eight people were killed in another village, but since Muslims were not permitted to travel (particularly women), people in her village did not see this, but they did find one body in a canal. She criticised the UNHCR for saying that the situation had improved; when they went back they could not stay even 15 days before they had to do forced labour again. They found that the situation had not improved.
Age/sex: 30, male
Occupation: Journalist for Ajker Kagoj newspaper, since 1990
The witness was a local Bangladeshi who travelled frequently to Myanmar (though not as a journalist, since foreign journalists are not allowed to enter). He said that currently the Myanmar authorities were accusing the RSO of using the Bangladesh side of the border as a base from which to launch cross-border attacks on the NaSaKa. He thought this accusation was true. The NaSaKa were rounding up villagers to guard the border at night to prevent the RSO from crossing. He had witnessed this himself in villages in Myanmar. Villagers in Myanmar were also forced to give 40 kg of rice per hectare of land in tax, regardless of what crop (if any) they actually cultivated on the land. He had gathered a lot of information on oppression and forced labour, and in his opinion the situation had not improved since the last influx in 1991/92; it may even have become worse. He had seen the Rohingyas being treated like animals by the authorities. He has seen Rohingyas doing forced labour, as porters for the NaSaKa; he often saw this when he went to Myanmar. As more and more people became internal or external refugees, this increased the forced labour load for those who remained, which was one reason why the situation might be getting worse. Also, young Rohingyas were now being accused of being RSO, so they had to flee. He had also seen evidence of maltreatment of Rohingyas, in the form of bruises and cuts. He thought that the number of Rohingyas who had come to Bangladesh since 1978 was not less than 1.5 million, with at least 25,000 in the last year. He considered that there might soon be another major influx. One indication was a recent upsurge in RSO activity over the last one to two months. In the past this had resulted in retaliation by the NaSaKa on the civilian Rohingya population, causing them to flee. This happened before the 1991-2 influx. He knew of UNHCR projects in Bawli Bazar and Shahad Bazar in the north of Maungdaw township, where the people working on the projects were supposed to be paid, but in fact the UNHCR paid the NaSaKa, who implemented the project, but they did not pay the Rohingyas.
Age/sex: 19, female
Occupation: Family cultivated land, vegetables, betel
From: Dub Ru Chaung, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (village had 300 families)
The witness was a refugee before, in 1991/92. She was repatriated and returned to her village, but there was no reduction in forced labour. She returned to Myanmar again in early 1998. The forced labour could last up to one month or six weeks at a time, so there was no way to make a living. They had to clear jungle, cut poles for construction, clean latrines, and work in NaSaKa paddy fields. Every family had to do this, but only Rohingyas. After repatriation her husband used to go to the forest to collect wood to sell. One time he was doing this when he was supposed to do forced labour, so he was beaten by the NaSaKa and his leg was injured and cut. He became angry after this and started complaining about the country and saying he wanted to leave. This came to the attention of Military Intelligence, who falsely accused him of being a smuggler, so he had to flee. Labourers were taken from the road or market; sometimes orders were given to the village head; sometimes people were taken directly from their houses. Sometimes girls were taken from the street to the army camp. She knew four girls from her village who were raped in this way (this happened after her repatriation). Rice and money had to be paid as tax, but only Rohingyas had to pay this tax.
Ethnicity: Rakhine, Buddhist
Occupation: Retired Lieutenant Colonel
From: Not applicable
Witness spent his career in the military forces on the Bangladesh side, fought in three wars (Second World War, 1947 Indo-Pakistan conflict, 1971 Bangladesh independence war). He had never been to Myanmar because people there felt he was one of them and should have served in their armed forces, rather than Bangladesh's. He had no particular information about the current situation in Myanmar. Since the Bangladeshi side of the river was now silted, most people fished on the Myanmar side, fishermen came over to sell their fish in Bangladesh. Border control was not very strict.
Age/sex: 27, male
Family situation: Married with two children; has three brothers and two sisters
Education: 2nd Standard
Occupation: Day labourer
From: Sabbi Taung, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State
The witness left Buthidaung township for Bangladesh in July 1992, was repatriated in 1996 and came back to Bangladesh in early 1997. After his repatriation in 1996, he had to do various types of forced labour for the military in Buthidaung township: making fences for military quarters, building barracks, digging soil, collecting firewood. He was not paid and even had to bring his own food. He had to go three or four times a month, sometimes for a week at a time, sometimes four or five days. The Sabbi Taung village head would get the written order from the military then tell the villagers to go; if the village head failed to send the villagers, he would have to go himself. Sabbi Taung had about 350 families; the village head would ask one person per family to perform forced labour. In the absence of a husband, in principle, a woman had to go, but she could send another person paid by her. In practice, he has seen women do forced labour. As for children, the military would not take a real minor (below ten) because he could not work. Naikangtaung was the main camp. Forced labourers were collected there from various villages and distributed to where needed. He had to go on foot for about ten miles from Sabbi Taung to Naikangtaung and, as needed, from there also on foot for six to seven miles to Sindi Prang or Poimali. He had to stay the nights where he worked and bring his food rations with him. After he was repatriated in 1996, the UNHCR had given some food (rice) rations for working on a pond for drinking water for Sabbi Taung village. The village head, at UNHCR's behest asked for labour (volunteers). If someone did not want to go, he would not go. He himself had worked like a contractor, 40 persons working on the pond for 15 days would be given a number of sacks of rice and divide this among themselves. He worked there for a 20-day period, but had to leave the pond work during the same period when instructed by the authorities to do forced labour. He thus had to go twice, once for four days, once for five. This happened 15 days after he was repatriated. He also had to do portering for soldiers on patrol. Once, before his 1992 exile, for two months in a row. After his repatriation, he had to go twice for ten days each. Before his 1992 exile, he was injured (showed his scars below the knee) when carrying heavy baggage along and falling. Wound from falling (not beating) took a long time to heal. He received no treatment. In 1996 (between repatriation and second flight), besides working for military camps the witness did not have to work for road building, but before he first left in 1992, he had to work for the planned road from Buthidaung to Sittway (Akyab). He had seen forced labourers being beaten by soldiers: if they could not carry out orders in time, did not understand the language of an order, took too much time for their meal, or were incapable of carrying the soldiers' belongings (the soldiers did not care about the weight). Also, if anyone did not respond to the village head's call up for forced labour, his name would be given to the military, who would arrest him and seriously beat him up. After his repatriation, he had seen people from his village beaten by the soldiers in about 20 cases. There were instances where people were shot dead but he had not witnessed any, though he had seen, before 1992, a 30 to 35 year old man from his village, whose name he did not remember, being beaten up so seriously that he later died. He had not witnessed any cases of sexual abuse of women from his village. In other villages, when the soldiers went to look for labourers and all the males fled, they took women to the camp. He heard this from eyewitnesses from Poimali village before 1992.
Age/sex: 45, male
Family situation: Married with four children. Has two brothers and two sisters
Occupation: Selling his labour
From: Perella, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State
The witness came to Bangladesh for the first time in 1992 and was repatriated the same year. He came to Bangladesh again in early 1998, leaving his family behind in Myanmar because life had become very difficult, with too much forced labour and too many donations. He had to do forced labour many times for all three (two military and one police) camps near his village: clearing the ground, digging soil, collecting firewood, carrying water. He also had to give toll ("donation") money collected by the village head for the military intelligence. He had to go exactly once every month, for a week or sometimes ten days of forced labour. The village head's jurisdiction extended over seven villages with about 350 families. In Perella village there were about 35 families, and the village head called up by rotation ten persons at a time from his village about three times a month (the same for every other village), then distributed them to the camps. In addition, when the military were moving from one place to another, they could catch someone and take him as a porter. On 5 January 1998, he and his brother were going shopping in Sabbi Taung and his brother was caught on the way and had to carry the soldiers' belongings; he did not know where to or for how long. In 1997, he worked for a UNHCR road-building project. When called by the local village head, he volunteered to go for 16 days and got in return 21 kg of rice. But while working for the road, it was his turn to go for forced labour so he sent a substitute, to whom he paid 150 kyat. Once, late in 1997, he refused to go for forced labour. When called by the village head, he told him "If I go, my children will die". So his name was given to the military. He was arrested on the same night, at midnight the military came to his house, took him to the Jadi Taung police camp, beat him up and held him until 3 p.m. the next day. He was released after his mother had sold her ornaments and given 2,000 kyat to the camp-in-charge. He had seen some other cases like that. He was never paid for forced labour and had to bring his own food. Once, over a year ago, he got sick with a bad stomach pain and was about to die, during forced labour in Buthidaung - Naikangtaung camp, the biggest, central military camp, where he had to go once every two or three months, on foot, 14 miles from his village. He always stayed at the camp when doing forced labour. When sick, he was not given any medicine. His friends in the camp carried him to a nearby civilian hospital, where he was given no medication, and had to go back to the camp. In the camp, he was allowed to rest, guarding the belongings of others. There were very few military people who were good, but this was a good one. Seven to eight months ago in Poimali (Taraing camp), he witnessed a person being shot dead. In the camp there was a Mazi (leader) for every 80 labourers, and a head count by the military three times a day. In the evening, two persons from his group had disappeared. A soldier asked the Mazi to go a little bit further and shot him dead (name of victim: Hassan from Poimali village; 40 to 45 years old). In another incident three years ago, a man from Jadi Taung, Abdu Salam, had to collect bamboo for the military and was beaten to death. The witness was with him, they carried him back. There was an instruction for 100 pieces of bamboo per day to be cut per labourer. Abdu Salam could not complete 100, so when asked by a soldier he talked back because he knew the Burmese language, and for that reason was beaten to death. If a woman heading a household without adult male members was called up to supply labour, she could send a substitute labourer or a child. A widow with no children and who had no money would be asked to go to the village head's house. It depended on the village head, sometimes she had to work for the village head with his wives. With regard to children, boys would be taken from the age of ten upwards, sometimes it depended on size. Finally, he saw a 30-year-old woman from a nearby village raped at Poimali military camp seven to eight months ago. The village head gave the list of those refusing to do forced labour to the military: they went to seek these people. If they did not find the men, they took the women for three to four nights to the camp. So the woman was taken because they could not find the man. The women could not be seen in the camp; they were kept in a room.
Age/sex: 30, male
Family situation: Married with four children; has four brothers and four sisters
Education: 2nd Standard
Occupation: Businessman, ran a shop in Maungdaw town. (Came to Teknaf in Bangladesh on a transit permit every week for two to three days to buy things, then went back to sell them in Maungdaw.)
From: Su Za, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State(a village very close to Maungdaw town)
The witness was doing business when obliged to do forced labour, so he sent another person to whom he paid 200 kyat, two or three times per month. So he paid 400 kyat per month if it was two times and 600 kyat if it was three times. The order for forced labour came from the local authorities. The forced labour was for a NaSaKa camp, to build houses and dig soil. If there was nothing to do in the camp, the witness still had to send a labourer. He did not always send the same labourer. His understanding was that each time the forced labour was for one day only. When questioned why he had to do less forced labour than witnesses interviewed earlier the same day, he said it was because he was from a town (Su Za being virtually a suburb of Maungdaw). He wished to add that in town especially, the police stopped him often to take money out of his pocket without any reason; whatever they found in his pocket if they saw he was from a village, coming to town, "They behaved like robbers".
Age/sex: 45, female
Family situation: Married with nine children
From: Gariroa village near Fatur Kila, Sittway (Akyab) township, Rakhine State
The witness stayed at her village until the whole population was relocated to different places over two years ago. She then stayed with her family for over six months in Dumsofara village, Rathedaung township until they came to Bangladesh one-and-a-half years ago (mid-1996). Before her relocation (over two years ago), the witness had to perform forced labour herself, carrying bricks for walkways in Tunku Shai military camp. The military gave the order to the village head, who did not ask her personally to go, but one person per family, so, if her husband was busy, she had to go (her husband made a living from two ox carts with four oxen). She had to go sometimes two or three times a month, sometimes once a month, sometimes for seven days in a row, sometimes for two or three. They did not know in advance for how long, the village head only collected the labour, then the military decided. She had to stay overnight at the camp. When her husband was there, he went. If someone was called and arrived late at the camp, the person was beaten by the soldiers. She had not seen this herself. Other women who had to perform forced labour at the camp were sexually molested and raped by the soldiers, including her husband's sister, in the camp, when she was taken as a porter six or seven months before the village was relocated. She did not know the name or rank of the soldier who raped her sister-in-law. Relocation: In the Fatur Kila area, Muslims were a minority. Five Muslim villages, including Gariroa, were relocated "by Government order" over two years ago. Gariroa village was near the town and the whole Rohingya population was just removed, not for road building or some similar reason, and dispersed to several villages of Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships. Her family and a few others to Dumsofara in Rathedaung township. One day at 3 p.m. their house was marked, and the next morning they had to move, leaving their house behind; they were unable to organize their things. They had to leave their two ox carts and four oxen behind, the basis of their livelihood. The "authorities" came with guns and sticks, they were beaten because they were late moving, and were sent to Buthidaung by boat. From there to Dumsofara by truck and on foot. They were promised land in the new place but were not given any. They were not able to build a house, just a small hut smaller than the (small) hut they were currently in, and lived "almost as beggars". In the new place as in the old, they were not allowed to move to other villages, to stop them from going back to their old village. In any case, after the election of 1989/90, a new law prohibited people from moving, not only Rohingyas. After relocation: In the new village, Dumsofara, none of the relocated Rohingyas from Gariroa were asked to do forced labour in the six months or more that the witness stayed there, while the original population of Dumsofara had to do forced labour. Most of the population was engaged in fishing, so they had to fish for the military authorities who came almost every day after fishing to see what they caught, and took all the good fish. In addition, they had to collect firewood and bamboo for the military, and work in their houses.
Age/sex: 35, male
Family situation: Married with two sons and three daughters
From: Lambabil, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (two military camps and a military intelligence camp were near the village)
The witness left Myanmar in 1991 because of the torture to which he had been subjected and the forced labour he had to carry out. He could no longer provide for his family's needs or farm his land. He had to carry out forced labour from the age of 12. There was not really an organized system. The order came from the camp, using the village head as intermediary, who sent a messenger to find the required labour. He had to do labour on average five to seven times a month. The work lasted an average of three to four days. There was not always somewhere to sleep. He had to bring his own food. He was not paid. It was impossible to refuse. The punishment for refusal was arrest. His wife looked after the farm during his absence. Each family had to provide one member to work. He was then the only one in his immediate family who could do this work. It was possible to pay a substitute (but he never did because he did not have enough income). It was not possible to bribe soldiers to avoid work. He had to put up fencing or bamboo in the camps (for vegetable gardens and animals that the soldiers kept there) and collect wood. He also had to do portering for the soldiers, carrying their food and munitions. He never saw any fighting. He acted as porter about twenty times. The assignments lasted from one to five days. Even if the order specified a given number of days, he often had to stay longer until other porters came to replace him. The soldiers confiscated food in the villages they had to pass through and he could eat the leftovers. He was beaten several times when he was unable to carry the loads. He believed that the situation in Myanmar has not changed (someone who arrived from there recently confirmed this to him). Finally, while in Myanmar, he had to pay a rice tax proportionate to the family income, which was used to feed the soldiers. The tax could not be avoided.
63 to 65
Age/sex: 25 to 30, female (witness 63); 25 to 30, female (witness 64); 20 to 25, female (witness 65)
Family situation: Married with five children (witness 63); married with two children (witness 64); married with five children (witness 65)
Occupation: Husband was a farmer (witness 63); day labourer (witness 64); farmer (witness 65)
From: Saab Bazar, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (witnesses 63 and 64); Inn Saung, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (witness 65)
The witnesses came to Bangladesh in early 1997 because of the forced labour which deprived them of the means of providing for their own needs. Their only choice was to leave Myanmar. The situation had grown worse in that respect. Only men were subject to forced labour, about eight to ten months a year. They had to collect wood, bamboo canes, build houses and act as porters between two villages or two camps. Witness 63's husband was requisitioned to work as a porter for over a month just before he left for Bangladesh. He decided to leave when the authorities requisitioned him again for portering work. The work was not paid and there was no possibility to refuse, as any refusal could lead to torture and beatings by the military. It was always possible to send a substitute, since the rule of one male member per family still existed, it didn't matter who went. The men carrying out the work were subjected to ill treatment, beatings with weapons or fists and kickings were common. In cases where the authorities could not find the husband, they threatened to take the wives or simply seized the family's property and possessions. Witness 63 knew women who had been taken by the authorities. In her village, the village head had been told to provide the military with women. As he was also a Rohingya, he refused, and told the military to do it themselves. Her husband told her that women had been taken. Also, in Myanmar, donations were demanded from the Rohingyas by the Rakhines to finance all kinds of activity (social activities, religious activities, picnics). The Rohingyas had to help finance buildings. The amount depended on the time and the circumstances. So, in addition to doing unpaid labour, men had to work to earn the money needed to pay these compulsory taxes.
Age/sex: 25, female
Family situation: Married with husband and four children
Occupation: Farmer and small trader
From: Kachibil, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (the village had about 200 families; there was a NaSaKa camp in the village and a military camp two miles away)
The witness left Myanmar in early 1997 with her family. They left Myanmar because they could not stand the situation anymore. They came with another family from her village. More than 40 families from the village had left that year. With regard to forced labour, her husband had to work for the military and for the NaSaKa: gathering wood and fetching water, making rope, house-building, portering. The husband was away five to ten times a month to work. There was no way of providing for her needs while her husband was away. He did not receive any help from the neighbours. Her husband was beaten on many occasions. At least thirty times. He had even been seriously injured on one occasion. If he was unable to carry the loads he was given when he was requisitioned to work as a porter, beatings, punches and kicks were frequent. The order to carry out forced labour came from the NaSaKa or the military, who transmitted it through the village head. They also had to pay considerable amounts as donations. The amounts varied depending on the circumstances, i.e. the activities of the military, the NaSaKa or the Rakhines. About 2,000 kyat. The witness considered that only the rich could stay in Myanmar because they could pay their donations and hire substitutes to carry out the forced labour.
Age/sex: 25, female
Family situation: Married
From: Nerebil, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State
The witness had come the first time with the flow of refugees in 1992. She went back to Myanmar and left again in late 1997. She had personally been repatriated about six months before (repatriation of July 1997). Her husband was in prison in Bangladesh. After using up the allowance received from UNHCR, she had to come back to Bangladesh because she had no means of providing for her family in Myanmar. She had not personally had to do forced labour. The family had to pay the military several times to prevent her father-in-law being forced to work. This happened at least on six or seven occasions. The amounts varied: 200 to 300 kyat per time. She confirmed that there was still forced labour in Myanmar and that all those close to her had been forced to work.
Age/sex: 70, male
Family situation: Married with two sons
Occupation: Trader -- sold vegetables in the market
From: Naisapuru, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar six or seven months earlier (in mid-1997) because he found that the situation had become intolerable because of the forced labour and taxes to be paid to the authorities. If there were no forced labour and taxes, Myanmar would be a place where people would want to live. The flow of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh would eventually be reversed. His two sons had to do forced labour: road building, collecting wood and portering for the military. He was unable to give details. He indicated that even the elderly were requisitioned for forced labour.
Age/sex: 35, male
Family situation: Married with two children
Occupation: Day labourer
From: Poimali, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (village had 4,000 families; there was a large NaSaKa camp in the village)
The witness had to leave Myanmar in early 1997 and came to Bangladesh with two families from his village. Several other families had left Myanmar since he left. He left because life had become intolerable for a family with little income. Forced labour and the obligation to pay taxes prevented the men in those families from providing for their needs. He personally had to carry out forced labour: collecting wood, road building. He had to do it on average three or four times a month. He had to be away from his home for one or two days. He was not paid. He could not refuse because he was threatened with torture. As he had never refused, he had never personally been tortured, but he knew several people who had been beaten. The order to do forced labour came from the military who used the services of the village head to transmit the order. He also had to pay considerable amounts in taxes, which varied depending on the circumstances and the needs of the military.
Age/sex: 25, female
Family situation: Married with two children
From: Thaimongkhali, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (there was a NaSaKa camp in the village)
The witness left Myanmar in mid-1997. Her husband was requisitioned by the NaSaKa for forced labour about two months before she left for Bangladesh. He never came back. The authorities came to her, when her husband was away, to requisition him again. They suspected her of hiding him. She was no longer able to stand the pressure on her and decided to leave Myanmar to come to Bangladesh. Her husband had been requisitioned many times for forced labour: collecting wood, looking after soldiers' livestock, bringing water, carrying soldiers' equipment and rations. Her husband was requisitioned five or six times a month. Before he disappeared, her husband had been requisitioned to work for a month. He was requisitioned as a porter to accompany a NaSaKa patrol. The men who had to carry out forced labour were subject to ill treatment. Her husband had been beaten with a rifle on one occasion when he had no longer been able to carry his load. When the husbands were away, the women were often subjected to sexual abuse. She had personally been sexually abused. The order to carry out labour came from the military, who used the services of the village head. The latter asked a messenger to inform the men of the work they had to do. It was also compulsory to pay the taxes demanded from time to time by the military. The amount and the frequency depended on the circumstances and the needs of the military.
Age/sex: 70, male
Family situation: Twelve members (he and his wife and ten children)
From: Gong Gri, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (before influx there were 40 families in the village, now four)
The witness indicated that soldiers came to a village near his (named Poimali) and picked up three students for portering, but they never returned. He feared the same may happen to his sons, and this is why he came to Bangladesh. He arrived in 1991, with 20 other families from his village; he knows of another ten families who came subsequently (some of these have since returned). Every house in his village had to provide at least one forced labourer, for up to 15 days at a time. If there was more than one male who was old enough, then they could take turns. The army took them as porters on patrol in the hill areas. There were two military camps near his village, one north, one south. Then it was the military, now it has been renamed NaSaKa. The villagers had to build these camps (the site would be selected by the military, then the order would be given via the village head to build the camp). The first army camps were built in the area in 1962-65; there has been portering since 1975. At first it was once every three or four months, but later (when he left) it had increased so it was almost every day. Other forced labour included working at the military camp (doing fencing and cleaning). The villagers also had to provide chickens to the military camp every month for food. He had three sons, who had to go for forced labour in turns. During forced labour, if anyone made a mistake in carrying out orders, they would be beaten (with hand or other nearby object). He has seen people return from forced labour wounded or sick (one person had a dislocated ankle); he has heard of people who died during forced labour, but has not seen it. There was no cash given for forced labour, but food was given (not good food, but edible, and only for the labourer, not family). They had to give rice as a tax. Everyone had to give this tax, but Muslims had to give twice as much as others. Also, monthly "donations" had to be give for maintenance of the army camp (about 100 kyat per month, but it was variable). Rakhines did not have to pay this money, or go for forced labour. People who couldn't pay the tax would be detained and beaten, and their land would be confiscated and given to Rakhine people. One month before he came to Bangladesh (in the dry season) Rohingya villagers went to the jungle to collect bamboo, as they always did. Forty-five people went for 15 days to the jungle, and on their return passed near to an army camp. They were seen by the camp and forced to distribute all the bamboo and wood they had collected to Rakhine families. People who have come to Bangladesh after previously being repatriated claim that some UNHCR projects required bricks, and this responsibility was given to the NaSaKa. The NaSaKa opened a kiln, then forced people to collect wood from the forest as fuel, without payment, even though funds for this had been given to NaSaKa by the UNHCR. People who had fled again after being repatriated say they could not stay a second in peace after being repatriated. That is why they fled again.
Age/sex: 38, male
Family situation: Seven (he and his wife and five children)
Occupation: His parents had a farm, he was a trader and shopkeeper
From: Kyein Chaung, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had 800 families)
In 1991, the witness was waiting (with others) by the road one night for a rice shipment to arrive. An officer and four soldiers came and rudely asked them what they were doing, since they were out after curfew. They said they were waiting for a rice shipment, and that the soldiers should understand that they still had to do their work in spite of the curfew. Soldiers took him as a porter, tying his wrists with a rope, which they said was to prevent him from escaping. As they moved, three more porters were also captured, and tied up similarly. Then they came to a house with a light on, and the soldiers called out, asking if there were any men in the house. A woman's voice replied that there were not, but a soldier went in to check, and then tried to rape the woman. He did not know if the rape was carried out, because then the husband returned and tried to stop the soldier. The soldier hit the man three times on the head with a stick. The soldier threatened the porters who had witnessed what happened not to tell anyone. At this point the soldiers untied the witness, and told him not to run away, or they would destroy his shop. They then went to another house, but the man had run away, so they took two chickens. The next house they went to there was an old woman and two teenage girls, who were asleep in sarongs. The soldiers ripped off their sarongs, and he thought they would have raped them, but there were too many people around. In that house there was a chest containing clothes. The soldiers found 750 kyat in the chest, and took it together with an umbrella, sarong and some blankets. The next house they went to the soldiers raped a woman. In another house they beat a man with a stick. In the next house, they hit the younger sister of the village head, so she ran to another house, and they followed her and hit the old woman in that house. They collected porters that night until 2 a.m., then returned to their camp. On the way back to the camp, a soldier told him that if he bought him a bottle of alcohol, he could be released. He bought a bottle for 250 kyat, and was released. The next morning a lot of people around his shop were talking and asking what had happened the previous night, saying they had heard rumours. He waited to see what would happen, and four police arrived asking if he had made trouble with the soldiers, and saying that they thought the soldiers would come and get him. That was when he left and came to Bangladesh. He also had other experience with forced labour. Soldiers used to come to his shop, and demand that he carry provisions to their camp. He first did forced labour when he was 15 (the first thing was portering for soldiers on patrol). Portering would usually last for two to three days at a time, and he sometimes had to go as often as once a week, but it depended. The other villagers also had to do forced labour--carrying things, and building and maintaining army camps. (He said that the first army camps were built in the area a long time ago, when the BSPP government came to power.) There was also other kinds of forced labour; everything imaginable, such as digging drainage ditches, building roads, sweeping roads for mines, and all kinds of work associated with maintaining army camps. Forced labour started to increase after 1988. Now people have to go for 15 days or one month at a time, whereas before 1988 it was one day per week. For the last two years, there have been at least 100 people at a time doing forced labour in his village. His father and brother are still there and he sometimes has contact with them, so he still gets information about the situation in his village. During forced labour, the soldiers swore at the villagers and beat them if they were slow, and sometimes they also took money from them. He was beaten one time when he was a porter. His load was too heavy, and he told the soldier he could not carry it as he was not a manual labourer and was not used to such heavy loads; the soldier got a stick and beat him. People in his village also had to pay taxes: whenever the army came to the village the people had to give them food, oil, spices and chillies. It was not systematic; sometimes twice a month, sometimes 4 times, whenever the army came through. He left for Bangladesh because he couldn't stand the situation any more. He left on his own, but all together about 700 families left his village at that time; some were still there, and others went back. Of those who went back, many have fled again, but they did not come to the camp where he was. Some were still coming out (50 families have come recently, gradually, not all at the same time). The recent arrivals gave him information about the current situation. The situation now was not worse than before, but not much better. If anyone complains to the UNHCR, the NaSaKa take revenge on them. People still had to work for 15 days a month for the NaSaKa. The also worked about 15 days a month for the UNHCR, for which they received rice, oil and beans; when they worked for the NaSaKa, they only received a stick (i.e. a beating). The NaSaKa were not involved in food payment on UNHCR projects; the UNHCR had a representative who was himself a Muslim, and he gave them the food directly. He had not heard of the NaSaKa taking the food.
Family situation: Ten (him, wife, six children, daughter-in-law, grandson)
Occupation: Village head
From: Village in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had 600 households at the time of his leaving) [village name withheld at the request of the witness]
The witness left Myanmar in 1990. He was involved with the democracy movement, and after Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested things started to get difficult for him and he had to flee. There has been forced labour in his village since 1962, but it increased greatly after the SLORC came to power in 1988. Now it is the NaSaKa which demands forced labour; before the NaSaKa was set up, it was the army. He had to provide 200 labourers from his village at a time to work at the NaSaKa camps near the village. He had to rotate the 200 people, and they would not be released until 200 replacements arrived. There were no written orders. Army/NaSaKa camps had to be built by the villagers. They had to build the entire camp, and then maintain and repair it once it was built. Repairs had to be carried out mainly at the end of each rainy season. There were three camps near his village (at one, two, and four miles distance from the village, respectively). One of the camps was a small camp, and the village had to provide 50 people permanently to work there, day and night. They had to provide their own food. At one of the larger camps there was a shrimp farm, where there were 400 people at one time from 22 different villages doing forced labour. The profits of the shrimp farm would be kept by the military. All work related to the shrimp farm had to be carried out by the villagers. For example, the villagers would be ordered to collect a given quantity of young shrimps from rivers to populate the shrimp farm. They would then be required to provide a certain quantity of cow manure to the shrimp farm on a regular basis. If the villagers failed to provide the required quantity then he, as the village head, would be put in stocks. This happened to him several times, on one occasion for a period of five days. Sometimes he was arrested and put in stocks as an incentive for the villagers to carry out orders. The villagers had to do all kinds of forced labour for the military/NaSaKa. It was impossible to list all the different forms; anything that needed to be done would be done using the villagers as forced labour, such as collecting timber, collecting firewood, digging trenches. He could not estimate the number of days per month a villager would normally spend doing forced labour, but five days per week with only two days to work for yourself would not be unusual. The NaSaKa did not follow any laws; "whatever came out of their mouths was the law". If a military officer came from Yangon, the villagers would have to provide food for the camp which was hosting him. The NaSaKa beat the villagers. Many people were beaten to death during forced labour. Even old people were forced to do labour, and were punished for not working quickly by being thrown in the shrimp pond. This was even done in winter, when it was very cold. Many old people died in this way. When the authorities wanted to build a secondary school the village had to provide 70,000 kyat for this. Whatever the military put their stamp on, the villagers had to obey. There was also extortion in the form of various taxes. A proportion of the rice crop had to be given to the government, and another proportion to the NaSaKa, and another proportion to the local Rakhines, and another proportion to the Buddhist monastery (even though the villagers were Muslim). "How would you feel if you paid 100 kyat to one soldier, then another soldier came up, and asked for 200 kyat, and so on. That is why people left." There were not many Rakhine people in his area, but those that there were did not have to pay taxes or do forced labour. In his village the Rohingyas were not forced to do work for the Rakhines. The NaSaKa would come to the village head and find out who the rich people were in the village. They would then arrest these people, and accuse them of being rebel collaborators. They or their families would then have to pay 10,000 kyat or 50,000 kyat or whatever the NaSaKa thought they could get for their release. After they had gone around doing this in all the villages, they came to him, because he was fairly rich. He had inherited money from his father and had been able to build a two-storey house. They arrested his eldest son. They tortured his son for seven days. His son was forced to go across sharp stones on his knees, and had thorns put in the soles of his feet. He was also tortured with electricity. They did not know why he was arrested; no reason was given. He was released after seven days after the family paid 50,000 kyat. Then his son was arrested again, this time for 40 days, on the charge of being involved in politics. This was not true. He was scared that his son would be sent to prison in Yangon, and would die. He had to pay money again to get his son released. The total he ended up paying for his son was 400,000 kyat. He had to sell everything he owned to raise this money. He was advised by friends that he should not continue to stay in the village, or he would face more problems, so he decided to flee to Bangladesh. This was during the rainy season. He told no one, not even his mother. He left the village in the middle of the night with his wife, six children, grandson and daughter-in-law. He had some information about the current situation in his village. He had heard that it was a little better since the UNHCR established a presence than at the time when he left, but there was still portering, forced labour and high taxation. The amount of forced labour had decreased, but there were now less people in the villages to do it, so the actual amount that a particular villager had to do had not decreased much. There had been a decrease in portering, however. There were currently about 500 households left in his village.
From: Village in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State
The witness, from the same village as witness 73 and present during the testimony of that witness, added: "Buddhist people have temples, and we Rohingyas have Mosques. But our Mosques have been locked up by the authorities so we cannot pray. Graveyards are holy places for any religion, but in our village, an army camp was built on top of the graveyard. They even opened an alcohol shop there. They specially pick out the Muslims for persecution. They deliberately do things insulting to our religion. They rape the women. Our religious leaders are important to our life. They explain the meaning of religious texts to us, but the authorities choose especially these people to do forced labour. I had to do forced labour while I was a school student. We were beaten while we were doing the forced labour. Students from eighth, ninth and tenth Standards had to do portering. People also had to do forced labour building new villages for Buddhist Rakhines. Muslims have no value and no freedom in Rakhine State."
Age/sex: 32, male
Family situation: Married with one child
From: Buthidaung town, Rakhine State
The witness was present during the testimonies of witnesses 73 and 74, and added the following: he left Myanmar in 1994. He was a Rohingya, but looked like a Rakhine. Muslims were not allowed in the army, but they did not realise he was a Muslim. He demonstrated in the 1988 uprising with other soldiers. At that time the army discovered he was Muslim. Their reaction was: "Oh no, we had a Muslim in our midst all this time and didn't know". He saw the extent of anti-Muslim feeling in the army when he was a soldier. Most soldiers, including the high-ranking officers, were of the opinion that the best thing was for all the Muslims to leave Myanmar, since it was not their country. They wanted all the Muslims to pack up and leave, and the policy was directed to that end.
Age/sex: 51, male
Family situation: 12 (him, wife and ten children)
Occupation: Bicycle mechanic (owned a bicycle repair shop)
From: Buthidaung town, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in 1992. The Government oppressed the Rohingyas in many ways. They were not allowed to travel and were discriminated against as Muslims (for example, they were not allowed to have Muslim schools or do business freely). Soldiers would take Muslims from the town to clean up their army camp. This had been going on for decades. The soldiers always said that they were not from Burma. There was one army barracks in the town, but several battalions in the township. They came in 1990. The camps and barracks were all built with forced labour from the local people. The situation was worse for people living in villages. The soldiers would force people to move to make space for an army camp, and then those same people would be forced to build that army camp. Once the army camp was built, the people would be forced to move away, but they would not be given any new place to go to. They were told: "You are Indians. Go back to where you came from." The soldiers would even take their money, saying "This is Burmese money. You are an Indian, so you have no need of this money." Whenever the soldiers moved, they took local people to carry their things. They only took Muslims. They just grabbed whoever they needed, often 100 or 200 people at a time. There was no fixed period that someone would have to do this work. They just had to continue for as long as the soldiers wanted them, sometimes for as long as one or two months. Many people died during portering. They gave the porters no money, and they even would have to bring their own food. When all the men ran away to avoid being taken as porters, the soldiers would rape the women. This happened very often. Some girls were taken away to the army camp and raped there; often they became pregnant as a result. Sometimes the soldiers would kill the girls who became pregnant. In one case, he knew of a girl who was taken to an army camp and raped. She became pregnant, and was kept at the army camp until she had the baby, but she died during childbirth. There was also forced labour that the people in Buthidaung town, including him, were forced to do by the soldiers. They had to clean up the town, and construct roads. There was usually no systematic way that this was organised; the soldiers would just grab people. There was also religious discrimination. The Muslims had no freedom of religion. They could not have Muslim schools. They were prevented from wearing Muslim clothing. They were told: "You can't dress like that. This is not your country. If you want to dress like that, go to your own country." The Muslims also had to pay taxes and extortion which the Rakhine inhabitants did not. Any time the soldiers wanted money, they would just demand it. The people gave them money, but it just got worse, because the people were very poor, and they were always being asked for more money. He was often taken from his bicycle repair shop for forced labour and portering. Rakhine people did not have to do forced labour.
Age/sex: 44, male
Family situation: Eight (him, wife and six children)
From: Village near Buthidaung town, Rakhine State [village name withheld at the request of the witness]
The witness left Myanmar in 1992 with his family and his elder brother. In 1990 the villagers had to build an army camp. They had to provide their own food, and were beaten by the soldiers while doing this work. Also in 1990, some villagers' land was confiscated and given to Rakhine families. They had to continue to work on the land for the Rakhine families. They were forced to do this by the army, and were not paid. His land was not taken.
Age/sex: 45, male
Family situation: Ten (him, wife and eight children)
Occupation: Township clerk; his family did farming
From: Buthidaung town, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in 1991. He had his land confiscated and an army camp was built on it. He and other people were forced to build this camp. He also did portering. While he was away portering one time, his wife was raped by soldiers. This happened on the 21 February 1991. That was when he decided to come to Bangladesh. He was a township clerk, and had to arrange for people to do forced labour. He also had to do forced labour himself. If he could not do forced labour, he had to pay a substitute 30 to 50 kyat per day. When he did not have money he would have to go himself.
Age/sex: 36, male
Family situation: Five (him, wife and three children)
From: Sittway (Akyab) town, Rakhine State
The witness came to Bangladesh in 1992 because of excessive taxation and forced labour. He could not continue to run his business and do forced labour. He was a trader, a middle-man for trade from Yangon. As of 1990 it was impossible for him to travel any more, and the traders he worked with from Yangon, who were also Muslim, could not travel to him. Some of the Muslims in Sittway had their houses confiscated. They also had to do forced labour. There were about 12,000 soldiers in the area. Locals had to carry supplies to the camps of these soldiers. This started after 1988. He only did forced labour once, in 1988. He was taken as a porter for 15 days in the jungle. The Muslims also had to pay very high taxes, which the Rakhines did not have to pay. As a businessman he usually managed to avoid forced labour, and the worst of the taxes.
Age/sex: 30, male
Family situation: Married with two children
From: Mongni Para, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had about 3,000 families)
The witness left Myanmar in early 1997 with his family. More than 400 families have left his village. He had to do forced labour for the military in the mountains. He had to collect wood, act as porter and stand guard, since the village was near the border with Bangladesh. He had to work on average at least once a week. He had to do forced labour from the age of 15. He continued until his departure from Myanmar. He had to bring his own food. He was not paid. It was not possible to refuse because any reluctance could result in a beating. He had never refused but he knew people who had and who had been badly beaten. All the families in the village had to provide one man to perform the work. The order to carry out the work came from the military, who transmitted it through the village head. He had to pay money for the construction of schools and all kinds of activities (social, religious or sporting) of the military or Rakhines. If it was not possible to pay, they then had to do additional work in the camps. They had to pay these taxes at least three times a month.
Age/sex: 60, male
Family situation: Widower with two sons
From: Khoirmorapara, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (village had about 300 families; military camp and military intelligence camp nearby)
After the death of the witness's wife, he often had to be away to carry out forced labour. Then there was no one to look after his sons. He left with his children in early 1997. More than 100 families have left his village to his knowledge. With regard to forced labour, he had to do more or less everything in the military camp: prepare food, wash clothes, collect wood. The assignment could last up to three days or as much as seven days. He had to work on average ten to 12 times a month. The day generally began at dawn and ended at 7 or 9 p.m. He was not paid. He had to bring his own food. It was impossible to refuse because those who did were systematically arrested. He had never himself refused. It was possible to pay a substitute to carry out the designated work. He did forced labour for the first time at the age of 30. He continued until his departure. The order came from the military, who transmitted it through the village head. The men recruited for the work were subjected to ill treatment. He himself had been beaten when he fell asleep at work. Seventeen people from his village had been killed just before he left. His village had been subjected to reprisals by the military because members of the RSO were supposed to have taken refuge there. He had to pay an average of 40 kyat a week in taxes. That was the amount payable by the poorest. If there was a decision to build a camp, it was built by forced labour and financed by the payment of taxes. That was how the camp near his village was built. The taxes were also used to pay for the various activities of the military.
Age/sex: 40, male
From: Fatecha, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (village had 52 families)
The witness came the first time in 1991/92 with several families from his village. Ten stayed and several later went back to Myanmar. He himself went back in 1994 and returned to Bangladesh late in 1996. With regard to forced labour, the situation had worsened between his two periods in Bangladesh. Previously, he had to do six to eight days a month. Before leaving the second time, the number of days had been raised to around ten to 15 days a month. He did forced labour for the first time at the age of ten or 12. He had continued until his departure. He had been requisitioned to build a military camp, collect wood and bamboo poles. He had to bring his own food. He was not paid. He sometimes had to stay a week at the site of his assignment. There was not always shelter to sleep. He slept in the huts he was building. He could not refuse because any refusal could lead to a beating and a fine (about 2,000 kyat). The day began about 6 a.m. and ended at sunset. The order came from the military, who transmitted it through the village head. The men who had to do forced labour were subjected to ill treatment, and were regularly beaten. He himself had been beaten and had even lost a tooth on one occasion. Taxes increased after his return. Before, they were about ten to 15 kyat a month. After his return, they were about 200 kyat a month. Any excuse was sufficient to extract money from them (sporting, religious or social activities). They had ten days to find the money to pay the taxes, without exception.
Family situation: Married with two children
Occupation: Small trader
From: Tatupur, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State (village had about 500 families; there was a NaSaKa camp in the village)
The witness had to leave Myanmar because he was accused of belonging to the RSO. He left in early 1997 with his family. Fifty eight families left with him. In 1993, he had to pay 130,000 kyat to the SLORC and the NaSaKa to prevent his family being killed because he was suspected of belonging to the RSO. His uncle, who was returning from Saudi Arabia, was murdered for the same reason. He had to sell his land to pay. He had to leave when the situation became intolerable. As he came from a family with a certain amount of property, he did not have to do forced labour. He could pay substitutes. He had to pay an average of 400 kyat three or four times a month. He had to pay substitutes for the first time when he was a child. The order came from the army which transmitted it through the village head. All the men in his village were subject to forced labour, with each family having to provide one member. The treatment to which they were subjected varied. If, for example, a group of people had been ordered to provide a certain quantity of bamboo and did not achieve the specified quota, the whole group was punished. For the wealthiest, the fine was mostly a sum of money. The others were sent to Bangladesh. With regard to taxes, he had to pay money for all the activities organized by the military (games, pagodas, religious activities). He had to pay an average of 400 to 500 kyat a month.
Age/sex: 30, male
Family situation: Married with four children
Occupation: Small trader
From: Kachibil, Maungdaw township, Rakhine State (village had about 180 families; there was a NaSaKa camp nearby)
The witness left Myanmar in the course of 1997. He escaped from the NaSaKa camp where he had been held prisoner for seven months because he had only paid 800 kyat out of the 1,200 exacted by the military. He was later joined in Bangladesh by his family. About ten families accompanied his own when they left. He had come to Bangladesh the first time with the influx of refugees in 1991. He was repatriated in 1994. He thought that the situation grew worse in the time between his two stays in Bangladesh. Previously, forced labour was mainly for the police. Now, men had to work for the NaSaKa. The conditions were more difficult and dangerous. Bribes were also higher. During the day, he had to work in the camp: general cleaning, washing soldiers' clothes, collecting wood, building paths and tracks inside the camp. At night, he had to do sentry duty for the soldiers. The orders came from the military, who transmitted them through the village head. He had to work about three times a week. He had to do it the first time when he was a child. He had to bring his own food. He was not paid. He could not refuse. When he was repatriated, he was even arrested, and the authorities asked him to pay them the money received from the UNHCR.
Age/sex: 40, male
Family situation: Two (him and wife)
From: Fansi, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State
The witness came to Bangladesh in 1991/92 because of various forms of oppression which meant that his family could no longer make a living. There had been forced labour in the area for the military since the time he was born. There were two army camps at Sindaung, and people from his village were made to do forced labour there. He went once himself, and three other times he paid money to hire a replacement. There were many other kinds of forced labour. He used to have to spend about half his time doing forced labour. He would have to work for a week, then have one week to do his own work, then he would have to do forced labour for another week, and so on. There were many different kinds of work: portering, collecting bamboo, levelling and clearing ground for the construction of camps, constructing buildings, clearing jungle to make land for cultivation and so on. He was abused and beaten while doing this work. One time he was slow while portering, and the soldiers were in a hurry. He was beaten and still has pain in his wrist now from the beating. The other time he particularly remembers was also while portering. His load was very heavy, and he stumbled forward, and some of his load fell, so he was beaten. When he was away doing forced labour, his younger brothers would take care of the farm work, and when they were away, he would do it.
Age/sex: 46, male
Family situation: Nine (him, wife and seven children)
From: Buthidaung town, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in March 1992. He was a trader. He traded in timber and rice, and then he bought a license to buy and sell cattle. He did not have freedom of movement, and so had to pay money to get travel passes whenever he wanted to travel more than eight kilometres. He also paid about 30,000 kyat per year as a trade tax. He saw many people taken for forced labour. He also knew of women who were harassed when their husbands were away doing forced labour. Because his job meant he travelled a lot, he gained a lot of experience about the situation in different areas. Because people regarded him as an influential Muslim, they would tell him about their situation and problems, because they thought he had some influence with the authorities. In this way he learned a lot about the situation in the areas he travelled to. In his regular dealings with the authorities, he would pass on information about the situation in different areas. Whenever he got a pass to travel somewhere, he would have to report back to the authorities when he returned, and at this time they would ask him where he went and what he had done. It was at this time that he passed on some of the information he had been given by the villagers. The authorities became annoyed because he always knew very well what the situation was in different areas, and they began to suspect him. They thought he was involved in politics and was doing work for the NLD. He was warned by friends in the local administration that he would face some problems, and so he decided to leave. He never did forced labour himself, but he often saw other people doing forced labour when he travelled. Two or three times he also saw people being rounded up for forced labour.
Age/sex: 68, male
Family situation: Ten (him, wife and eight children)
From: Monikul hamlet, Lawadok Pranshi village, Buthidaung township, Rakhine State
The witness left Myanmar in 1992. He was born and grew up in Minbya, but moved to Buthidaung township after Second World War. He never did forced labour himself, but one person from his household was required to do forced labour on a regular basis. His three sons would do this, by rotation. This has been going on since 1962. His sons would usually be away for two or three days, doing different kinds of forced labour. He came to Bangladesh because he was a supporter of the NLD, and after the 1990 elections NLD supporters were being arrested. He was worried that he would be targeted because he had filed a complaint with the authorities regarding harassment of women, so he left. He previously came to Bangladesh in 1970, but was repatriated. He does not want to be forced to return again.
Occupation: Village head
From: Village in Buthidaung township, Rakhine State [village name withheld at the request of the witness]
The main reasons why the witness fled to Bangladesh in 1992 were forced labour, taxation, and treatment by the authorities. After the elections in 1990, the SLORC did not accept the results, and began arresting students and community leaders. At this time, some people started to flee. Forced labour and oppression started to increase. Women who were left alone in villages were harassed. Property and land were also confiscated from the Muslims. As more and more Muslims fled, the situation began to break down. The authorities imposed strict travel restrictions on Muslims. Farms, shrimp ponds and other assets were confiscated from Muslims and given to Rakhines. His whole village had to do two days of forced labour each week, every week of the year. Treatment by the soldiers was very bad; many villagers were beaten.
full report is on the ILO website at: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/standards/relm/gb/docs/gb273/myanmar.htm
Paper copies in English, French and Spanish can be obtained from ILO Distribution: Tel (+41-22) 799 6871; Fax (+41-22) 799 6926; Email prodoc@ilo,org.