* To monitor human rights situations in Mon territory and other areas southern part of Burma
* To protect and promote internationally recognized human rights in Burma

 

human rights foundation of monland


Human Rights Report 2/96
(May 20, 1996)

 

P.O. Box 11, Ratchburana, Bangkok 10140, Thailand

 

 

Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after
childbirth.  During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with
adequate social security benefits.
(Article 10. 2,  International Covenant on Economic. Social and Cultural Rights)

 

........Children and young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation.

Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life or likely to

hamper the normal development should be punishable by law.........

(Article 10. 3,  International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)

 

 

The Exploitation of Woman and Child labour in Ye-Tavoy Railway Construction

 

The Reason of conscription of woman and child labour

 

Normally, in economy deteriorated Burma, the women and the children have never been accepted the international principles of women and children rights mentioned in Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other human i rights instruments such as International Covenant on Civil and Political rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Burma, as a country of Least Developed Country (LDC) recognised by United Nations,
except the military clique the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council), the most population in Burma are in poverty, hardship in seeking income and very low in living standard. Additionally, they have been suppressed by the military regime SLORC with several kinds of human rights violations in both rural and urban areas.

 

Burmese military regime SLORC is also well known in world community for its conscription of slave-labour to its own people in implementing several government projects. Since the SLORC came into power, in attempting for legitimate role in world community, the military commanders adopted policy for implementation of infrastructure projects in the whole country without outside helps. Among the whole country government implementing projects, the 110 miles (estimately 160 kilometers) long Ye-Tavoy Railway Construction is the one which have been built nearly three years by the conscription of free labour of local inhabitants of Mon, Karen and Tavoy ethnic communities of lower Burma.

 

In this prolonged railway construction, the local inhabitants were conscripted in rotation basis. Those conscripts were mainly from Yebyu Township of Tenasserim Division, the lowest part of Burma. Hundreds of thousands of local inhabitants have been consistently forced to contribute manual labour in the construction and in that numbers, the most percentages are women and children.

 

Why the women and children have to work in the construction? Because of economy, it have been very hard for Burmese people including ethnic communities in finding jobs for income to ensure for the family survival, the most men have to work in farmlands or as day- labourer. When the military or the railway authority or village headman came and informed to contribute labour in the construction, the men have been away from home and the women
and the children had to be substitute. In traditional cultivation of rice farming, the men should have to manage in their rice fields and the women and children have to help. When the authorities came and forced the villagers for railway construction, it has been difficult for men to abandon their works in farms, plantations and other work sites and women and children have to work in stead of men. Otherwise, in many poorest families in the villages, the women and
children are played as hired hard labourers by small number of rich families in seeking more income for their families.

 

 

Terrible situations of women and children in worksites

 

Among the women who were conscripted as forced labourers in the railway construction, some of them were in pregnancy and some of them were under 16 years while old women were about 60 years. Normally, the working conditions along the railway route are worst with over-crowded population, improper shelters and sanitation system. The government never provided the needed necessities for labourers and they have to bring every-things they needed from their homes. In the period June to October, the monsoon weather in the area is very worst with heavy and flooded in all streams and several parts of  embankment of the railway have also been collapsed. Even in rainy season, the military forced the villages to repair such collapsed embankment. In stead of men who were busy with works rice cultivation, the women and children had to contribute labours in the construction such as finding new route or repairing the collapsed parts of embankment.

 

Beside the State government provides protection from discrimination against women and children, its authorities themselves never offered appreciation for promoting the working conditions in the worksites. In the construction sites, physically weak women have been precarious for discrimination of the local authorities especially military commanders. According to the interviews conducted by human rights workers, some young women were raped by
soldiers in labour camps which was built by villagers along the railway route and are close to the local SLORC military barracks.

 

Without ensuring for appropriate services to women in pregnancy, there have been many pregnant women worked in the construction. The railway authorities or military never collected information from those women for provide possible protection. Some women also gave childbirth in construction sites while many women went to the worksite with their 3-4 months old babies. They also hanged stretcher with babies under the shady trees near
construction sites and but the health conditions for those babies were anyhow getting worst as they could not provide proper shelters. No arrangement of care or protection was offered by authorities to those babies.

 

 The construction works are mostly burden even for men to dig the ground, sometime had to dig out hilly area with rock, and had to carry dirt with brackets to the top of embankment up to 15 feet in height. Normally the women and children have to work a burden jobs all the time without taking a rest. According to escapees, after the villagers completed defined piece of  work to each family likely to dig 10 holes or up to 15 holes of ground, the military still did not
allow them to return home. They had to work continuously up to the end of period of two weeks in construction sites without mentioning piece of work.

 

 

Focus of Current Report

 

This report focuses on the livelihoods of women and children in local areas, the conscription of forced labours on them and why they had to abandon their native places. To know the real situation of women and children, the HURFOM conducted to several of them who ever worked in the construction and all the facts collected are mostly similar and mentioned three interviews in this reports. Interview#l and #3 mentioned the livelihoods and working experiences in railway construction of two women and interview#2 described about a boy who ever worked in the construction.

 

To protect the persons who were conducted interviews, the report does not use the real names of interviewees and changed all the names. However, all the events and stories were true which really happened in Burma and, please feel free and can change the better usage of English. It is hoped that all information must be useful in helping the international community to halt the SLORC from violating inhuman abuses to its people and promote internationally recognised
human rights in Burma.

 

 

Interviews

 

Interview #1

 

Name: Mi Aye

Sex/ Age: Female/ 52 years

Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist

Occupation: Farmer

Native Place: Chaung Phar Village, Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division.

Interview Date: 10th December, 1995

 

Starting at the beginning of December, there are many new arrivals have taken refuge to Payaw Mon refugee camp, situated in Thai territory of Sangkhlaburi District, Kanchanaburi Province. The interviewee explained her terrible experiences how she arranged to escape and difficulties on the way.

 

 

Q When did you arrive to the camp and how difficulties you faced on the way?

I arrived to the camp only six days. I came here with my two sons and one daughter. I fled from my village, because I could not provide manual labour for the railway in longer time and at the same time, I have no cash to pay for them (military railway authorities, headmen of village group). I took for six days to arrive here from my village. I came not from railway construction worksite. I decided to stay here (as refugee). After I returned back from construction worksite on November 15, I decided to come here and I sold my two cows to get cash for foods. I already knew about this refugee camp from Khaw Zar villagers who ever came for trading. (Khaw Zar village is a big village situated in Ye Township of Mon State).

 

 

Punishment to the escapees of the construction

 

On the way we need to caution from facing the Burmese troops and we slept in day time and travelled in night time. When we were in Aleskan village, the troops also in there and we had to hide in one house. We were lucky, they did not meet us. Surely, if they met us, they will know we escaped from the railway. We came here with pots for cooking and rice for eat on the way. If they met such materials and foods, easier for them to know we were escapees. They will punish us for sure like beating and detaining. Last two weeks ago, when a family of Thaung Khun village was planning to escape, the headman of village group came and arrested head of family (father) and detained him in Kywe-tho-nyima. (Kywe-tho-nyima village is the biggest village in Kywe-tho-nyima village group and the SLORC's Infantry Battalion No. 273 also bases in there). They also threatened that family, if they fled, the Burmese soldiers will kill the man.

 

 

Because of conscription of forced labour, payment for railway construction and other kinds of tax, the local community has been systematically destructed by the military regime, and the population displacement has ever been occurred in every dry season.

 

Q Why did you decide to leave your village and living stocks? How oftenly you had to go to the worksite?

As I told you, I could not work longer in the railway construction and no cash to pay for hiring the substitute labourers in stead of us. It was too heavy work duty for our family members. We had to go for 15 days every month since September. We have nothing left at home to eat. And we have nothing left to sell and pay them. We were afraid the punishment of them. At the same time, I have no farmland like other villagers. My two sons have worked as day labourers in other villagers' farms and provided me for survival. After my sons oftenly worked in the railway construction without any payment very often, how we can survive. We have no any income.

 

 

Hardship for survival and constantly increased work duty

 

Payment to the  military and corruption amongst the SLORC commanders                         

 

Q How much do you have to pay them, if you can't go to worksite? To whom you have to pay?

After I returned back from the Ye Bone worksite in mid of November, the village headman told me our family must have to go to that worksite again in first and second weeks of December, I tried to explain him the difficulties of our family to get income for survival. I also explained him that my sons have to find some income from harvesting rice and only me and my daughter can go to the worksite and to reduce the work duty. When we worked recently, we had ever worked 7 holes to dig ground as piece of work and in December, according to village headmen, we may have to dig ten holes. Too hard for me and my daughter. So we asked many times to reduce work duty. But the village headman told us that the work duty for our village is instructed by village group headmen and military from Kywe-tho-nyima, he was not dare to tell them for the reduction of work duty. He went to Kywe-tho-nyima again. Two days
later, he returned to the village and explained the villagers, the authorities did not agree to reduce work duty and they were hurry to complete the construction (Yebyu-Kalein Aung section) at the end of December. He also explained that for the family who cannot provide labours in the construction for two weeks needed to pay 3500 Kyat to hire the labourers for replacement. At that time, I had only 500 Kyat. I was very  complicated and decided only one of my son to go for harvesting rice. But it was impossible.   I was sure two of us, me and my younger son could not complete the defined work in the defined day. I was too weak as an old woman, only my son will has to work for a whole.   We left nothing to pay them and for foods, and then decided to flee.

 

Yes, some villagers paid for hiring substitute labourers, they have no chance to hire by themselves. They paid it to village headman, and he brought all cashes to the Kywe-tho-nyima. I don't know whether he paid  all cashes to village group headmen or military commanders. May be, the village group headmen arranged to hire the labourers. But I never saw any replaced labourers in our worksite, even some families in our village paid cashes recently.

 

 

After many families left the villages, the military has never cared such population reduction in the community and they still defined the work duty to rest villagers. But the villagers have no rights to speak out any complaint.

 

 

Population displacement and burden work duty for the left villagers

 

Q Do you know how the village group headmen or military arranged to collect labourers and cashes?

I don't know for sure. This is the responsibility of the village headmen. As I know, our village has nearly 100 households last year (Before April).
Because of railway construction, many kinds of taxation, and maltreatment of Burmese troops, only fifty houses left in the village when they started growing rice in June. The families who have no farmlands around the village already left from the village except two or three family like us. But in the list of village group, the military and village group headmen still put 100 households and they divided for 100 family work duty that was actually worked only 50 families. That is why we had to work very hardly. They sent the defined piece of works to our village in accordance with their estimated population. If the villagers could not go to worksite, they needed to inform village headman and the village headman collected cash from families who could not pay and sent the list of actual labourers and cash to hire substitute labourers. No. I don't think so, the village headman took some cashes into his pockets. All families in the village are relatives. And, also very hard for him to get accurate cash from his villagers, sometime he had to provide some cash from his own after the villagers could not pay and flee away. If he could not pay them as they needed, he must be punished.

 

 

Porter fees after NMSP and SLORC reached a ceasefire agreement

 

Q Beside the payment for railway construction, what other kinds of taxation did you have to pay every month?

Every month, we have to pay for porter fees about 500 up to 800 Kyat. The village headmen have to take responsibility to collect porter fees from every family and sent it to military outpost of Kywe-tho-nyima village. According to the military they had to hire the porters when they launched military operation. I don't know where was front line, may be, in Karen areas (KNU No. 4 Bridge which bases in Tenasserim Division). For our village, we could not provide the porters as they asked, and so we have agreed to the military to pay them every month porter fees. Yes, sometime, even though we paid them, they did arrest villagers for porters, according to them, it was emergency porters.

 

I don't know what is agreement concerning porter between New Mon State Party and SLORC. After they stopped fighting (After NMSP-SLORC ceasefire) the Burmese troops has enable to come to our village any time and no more Mon troops around our village. One day last two and half month ago, according to village headman, the Mon leaders came to Kywe-tho-nyima and explained that the Burmese troops may not collect porter fees. But when Mon leader returned back, the porter fees have been still collected by the Burmese soldiers by giving order to the respective village headmen.

 

After ceasefire, we have to pay more porter fees than before, but no more beating and killing to the villagers. And the Burmese troops also came to the village very oftenly and they still took chicken, eggs, rice and fish paste. They asked it to the village headmen and they can get easily.

 

 

The conscription of women and children labourers are widespreadly happened in all construction worksites. Even though the railway authority decided to use labourers ages between 18 to 60, actually the authorities did not check age range of labourers. They used everybody who reached to the worksites.

 

 

Q You say, you and your two sons had to work in construction. How old are they?

They are 18 and 12 years old. Actually according to labourer list of our headman, only me and my elder son have to provide manual lab ours, but I am not so healthy enough and the work was too hard, and I needed my younger son for help, to complete the defined work in time. Surely, I and my elder son could not finish the defined work in time. As I worried the maltreatment of railway authorities and military, I did not want only two of them to work in  construction, so I accompanied with them. When we worked, my 14 years old daughter was at home. Yes, I worried for her also, but it was better, because our home is close to our relatives and they were looking after of her, when we were away.

 

 

The percentage of women and children in construction site

 

Q And do you know how many children and women were subjected to work in your worksite?

I don't know the exact number of women and children in our worksite. But I am sure, there were a lot of women and children and more than men. In our village, when we worked in October and November, most of women worked in the construction. At that time, the men were busy in farmland preparing to harvest rice. Other families are like our family, they also took their sons or daughters under 15 years old to help them to complete the work duty in time. From our village, in every 10 villagers of construction labourers, 6 of them were women and children. (It means 60 % of villager labourers in the construction are women and children).

 

 

Hardship and burden work duty for women labourers

 

The work is also hard, if you go only a man, may be the work duty could be completed in time. But I am not so sure. In recent two times, we had to dig 7 holes and the ground was very hard, difficult enough to dig. Too tire and we were not allowed to take a rest even in the mid day regardless of sunshine. And the digging holes were far about 10 meters from the embankment and we had to climb up sometime 10 foot high embankment. Thus, in every family, all family members including women and children under 15 had to go and tried to complete the work duty as they were afraid the terrible treatments of soldiers or village group headmen.

 

 

Q How did you build your shelter in the worksite? Could you get enough and pure water?

Every family who arrived to the worksite, they had to build their own shelters. The railway authorities did not provide any material to build shelters. As soon as we arrived to the worksite, we built a small shelter for three of us, with bamboo we cut nearby and made roofing with plastic sheets brought from home. So, it was very hot in day time and very cold in night time. More than 100 families had the same one stream and used that water. After five days, the stream water came into dirty. Also the stream is not so deep. We could get enough water but not so pure. To use as drinking water, we always boiled it.

 

 

Lack of proper sanitation and health care in construction site

 

Q Did the doctor or medic take care or treat you when you was sick?

As I knew, they gave a very small amount of medicine to sick person and if you would like to take more qualitified medicines, you had to buy it from those military medic or in medicine shop of Kalein Aung village. Yes, they allowed to treat in Ye or Tavoy hospital, if the condition of the patient was very serious. No, they did not provide for transportation or treatment charges. You must treat with you own expense. Yes, maybe the hospitals in Ye and Tavoy are government hospitals, but you could not get needed medicines in there and have to buy in outside shops with your own expense and treat in hospital.

 

 

Q The SLORC government always proclaimed that they has built this railway for the development of local populations, one day, you can get
smooth transportation after the whole project is completed. How do you think on that?

I don't know.

 

 

Interview#2

 

Name: Mehm Kyaw

Sex/ Age: Female/ 14 years

Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist

Occupation: none

Native Place: Kywe-tho-nyima Village, Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division.

Interview Date: January 10,1995

 

Burma, a country in deep poverty even it owns rice natural resource, could not provide and guarantee for proper education system to children in the whole country. Lack of educational assistance made several children to leave the school earlier and the illiteracy rate in Burma has been consistently increased.

 

 

Lack of proper educational assistance from poor family of local community

 

Q How old are you and did you attend the school? Had you ever helped with your family at home?

I am 14 years old. I have ever attended the school up to three standard (grade three) in my village primary school. I left from school two years already and then I helped my parent at home. Sometime, I went to sea with my father to catch fishes. My parent permanent work is fishing and my mother, sister and me had to make dry fish for sell (one kind of drought fish is common food for people in Burma).

 

 

Q How are hardships in your family works?

I think the work is not so hard for our family. I have ever helped such kind of work with my family for a long time. But when we left to the sea to catch fish, it was little hard for me because the sunshine is hot and sometime too much rain. Actually, my father did not ask me to go to the sea, but myself would like to help him. But I could not help much. I can help my mother much, in gathering same kind of fishes and carrying fishes.

 

 

Q As I knew you ever work in the railway construction and in comparison with the work at home, which is more harder?

The works in the railway construction were too hard for me. I had to dig the ground very large, and carry the dirt to high embankment. It was very far to reach to the embankment. It was too hard work for me in almost the time I worked there.

 

Actually, with aim to help their parents many children were working in the construction, because the work duty for each family particularly has been heavy burden. To avoid the payment, anyhow, those children have to help their parents.

 

 

Shortage of medical supplies in local hospital and no social security for local helpless community

 

Q How many times did you have to work in the railway construction? And, why did you work there? Did you parent agreed for it?

I worked there to help my parent. I have ever worked there for three times since September up to December of 1995. In July, when my father returned from sea he lied on the bed because of sickness. He was too weak and his face was in white colour at that time. My mother and sister brought him hospital in Tavoy. He had to treat there for one month. I don't know what kinds of disease (According to his mother, his father got pneumonia). At that time, my mother had to borrow money from our neighbouring. My mother and sister took care of father by rotation basis. They also had to buy medicines from outside shop in Tavoy as the hospital could not provide needed medicines and the prices were too expensive. When he recovered and returned from hospital, he could not work for fishing more like before and my mother had to take responsibility for the survival of our family. After he could not find income, my mother sold her necklace to buy rice. The situation came harder and hard for our family. As the same time we bought rice, we had to buy medicines for my father. He just lied on the bed and enabled walking to monastery in religious days. Before my father got sickness like that, he always went to the railway construction when the village headmen asked for unpaid labour.

 

In August, when the village headmen called for a meeting with villagers to contribute labour in the construction, my mother complained the situation of our family. But they refused for complaint and asked my mother to pay them 3,500 Kyat to a substitute labourer. Then my mother had to pay them the defined amount by selling propeller engine machine that was fixed and used in fishing boat of my father. Since then, we left no more to pay and give them. My sister and me sought some small income by working as day-labourers in fishing port of the village.

 

In September, the military came and asked again for the construction. In that time, we decided not to pay and work in the construction. We left my mother to take care father and my sister and me went to construction site. Since September, after we had no payment for the military, I had ever worked in the construction for three times (around the Kalein Aung and Yebyu area). Actually, my mother did not want me to work but we had no choice.

 

 

Q In the construction, what kinds of work you had to work? Did other villagers help you to complete your work?

I worked everythings as a man and our villagers helped to complete the defined work in time. Even we were two persons, we were weaker than
others and we worked very slow in comparison with other villagers. Mostly, I dug the ground and my sister carried it to embankment, but sometime we changed our jobs.

 

 

Unlike other countries where the child labour is exploited by individuals or companies or privates owned industries or factories, in Burma, the government itself, in stead of providing protection by law, has been exploiting child labour in the whole country.

 

 

No reduction of work duty for child labourers Large number of child labourers in the construction site

 

Q When the military or village headmen informed the villagers, did they tell the villagers that to not allow the children to work in the construction? In the construction sites, did the military reduce the working period especially for children?

I don't know. Every time village meeting to contribute labour in the construction, my mother or sister went and listened the instruction of the village headmen or military commanders. According to the villagers, not only my mother, they said the one who able to work in their home must go and work in the construction. When I arrived to work site, nobody asked my age and just I have to work there. There were many boys and girls with the same age of me. They had to work like me. Before we left from village, the village headmen told us that he did not need the elder and disabled persons to work in the construction, and to bring every things such as tools and foods for 15 days.

 

 

Q You said, there were many boys and girls worked in the construction like you. Do you know why did they come and work in the construction? Did they have the same event like you?

I think the most of them came to help their parents. They came and work in construction because the father or mother were busy with jobs for income and otherwise, they could not hire the substitute and the parents instructed their children. The most children came from the poor families of the villages and some children were hired as substitute labourers for rich families, but very little number. We had the same jobs to work like men, to dig the ground and to carry the dirt to the embankment. Sometime, the Burmese soldiers took the boys or girls for cooking in their barracks and carried water for them. Also, we have to carry water or cook rice for the group of villagers when they work our jobs in work sites.

 

In some families, when the boys or girls stayed with their old grandfathers or grandmothers to take care of them, the village headmen also conscripted their labour and forced to work in the construction. (Actually, the military ordered the village headmen to take all villagers who are able to work in the construction and they were also responsible to complete a burden defined piece of work, and then they have to force every one in the village to avoid
the punishment of the local military)

 

 

Destruction of local community and population dislocation because of forced labour

 

Q Why your family decided to leave from your village and living stocks?

(His mother answered for this question) We have nothing left in our home. Because of the sickness of his father (her husband) and no more income for survival, we decided to leave the village. I already sold every thing I have to buy rice and medicines. Then I borrowed a lot of money from neighbours and relatives in village and later we sold our house and return debts to them. We left only one fishing boat without engine and I gave to my young brother. We could not go to Kaw Thaung (a town in the most part of Tenasserim Division bordering with Thailand) like other families.

 

 

Q How you bring you husband up to here (We conducted interview in a village east of Ye Town)? Did you have to pass some Burmese soldiers' outposts?

We had to pass two military outposts. One is in Kyaukadin and another one is in Aleskan village. The soldiers asked us where we traveled and I told them I have to treat my husband in Ye. I gave the same answer to village headmen when we left from there.

 

 

 

Interview#3

 

Name: Mi Aye Yin

Sex/Age: Female/ 41 years

Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist

Occupation: Farmer

Native Place: Hamaw Gyi village, Yebyu Township.

Interview Date: January 14,1996.

 

 

Q When did you arrive to this border camp (Payaw Mon refugee camp) and why did you abandon you village?

I arrived here just three days ago. The military forced us to work in the railway construction and we could not provide them payment and then, we had to leave from our village. We have no more left for survival and also no time to work for income. We left here with the whole family including my husband, one son and two daughter.

 

The suppression of the military by collecting several kinds of tax and forced labour

 

Q Who forced you to work in the construction and what military battalions have often came into your village?

Mostly, the village headmen informed us in meetings to work in the construction. But when village headmen could not provide the defined labourers from our village, the military came and warned the villagers to make sure according to their instruction. Sometime, they came to village to ask for porters or porter fees, and other kinds of tax. I don't the exact number of the battalion which ever came to village, but I can recognize LIB 409 and LIB 410 came regularly at least two times in one month. Whenever the came or after they left, the village headmen called for meeting to villagers and warned to ensure contributing labour in construction and explained how many holes of ground to dig or pieces of work that the military had defined and when our villagers had to complete that works.

 

In the construction site, there have been many pregnant women and girl worked, but no special attentions and treatments are provided to those physically weak persons by the authorities. In some cases, the women also gave childbirth there with many difficulties.

 

Q Did the village headmen or the military instruct not to use women in railway construction? If not, did they tell villagers that they did not
want pregnant women and girl to work in construction?

Never. In the meetings, the village headmen always explained if the man could not go to the worksites, the wife or son or daughter should go and work for substitution. The military or village headmen never suggested that they would not like to use pregnant women or girls in the worksites. When we left to the worksites, both men and women including children travelled to the worksite together and we had to work in the same place. For villagers who came from the village helped each other. Mostly in heavy works, the men need to help the women. For example, while the women were digging ground in hilly area with big rock, the women had to carry the dirt to the embankment. Likewise, some women had to make foods for meals in temporary shelters, while
the men worked.

 

 

Conscription of woman labour regardless of pregnancy

 

Q Did you meet the pregnant women ever worked in the construction and how many month of pregnancy of them? And, what kinds of work

they had to work?

Yes, I have ever met the pregnant women working in construction whenever I worked in there. So far the pregnant women had to work because their husbands were away working for income or working in their own farms and plantations. In every worksite, Nwe Lein or Ye Bone or Kalein Aung, I have met many pregnant women worked there. From our village alone, among 30 villagers who had to work for 2 weeks in every month with rotation basis, at least two pregnant women also joined with the villager group.

 

I think some women had three month pregnancy while some were about six month pregnancy. The almost villagers in the worksites helped those
pregnant women as possible as they can, such as digging holes and carrying dirt and sometimes, the villager groups also let them taking rest. Some women also gave birth in the worksite.

 

 

Q Did you meet the women who gave birth in the worksites? And when? Did the railway authorities take care of them?

Yes, I ever met a women gave birth in Kalein Aung worksite in third week of October, 1995. She and her 11 years old came to worksites by accompanying with her son to contribute labour for construction. Actually, she would not like to allow alone to go to the worksite. After she stayed and worked for one week, she gave birth like that. The women villagers from her village helped to facilitate for smooth giving birth. Her child is girl. Then, her village headman brought her back to village. I don't for sure from which village she came, but I think she came from area of Chat Taw or Mae Daw villages. Before she gave, we saw she also carried dirt with small amount to the embankment. May be, her husband was fisherman or day-worker and away from home when she
left from village or they have nothing to pay to military to hire substitute workers.    

                 

No special attention or care provided by railway authorities or military for giving birth in the construction. They just shouted to concerning village headmen for bring such woman and warned to find a substitute of that woman. After the village headmen guaranteed to find out a substitute, then the military agreed to bring her back.

 

 

Additionally, other kinds of inhumane treatment is the military or railway authorities also force the women with small child to work in the construction. Those women and their children faced terrible conditions in the construction sites.

 

Q And, did you meet women with small babies worked in construction? How they took care their babies while they were working?

Yes, I met them.  Many of them came with babies.  They have no more choice after they could not provide payment to the military or village headmen and decided to work in construction even they have small babies. The railway authorities or the military in the construction site never told villagers not to bring mothers of small babies. They told, anyhow, from each family at least one family member had to come and work. If not, those families must hire a substitute or provide payment to authorities. You know, the most villagers in any village are very poor and could not provide payment, and then had to work even you are mother of small baby.

 

 

Woman labourers with small babies and lack of shelters for them

 

From our village alone, when we left to the worksite in November to Kalein Aung, there were three women with babies also went to construction site and worked there. At night time, we slept in the labour camp of Kalein Aung and we left to about 1 kilometer far worksite. The women also brought their babies with them and walked to worksite everyday and returned back to camp again in evening. When they reached to worksite, we also helped such women in finding a good shady tree to hang stretcher. Sometime, we got easily and if the trees were far from the worksite, we had to make temporary shelters with bamboo, leaves and clothes, and put the baby inside shelter after they were fed milk. The reason why those women have to come to worksite was the same with other women. Their husbands had to find income and no time to work in construction or they were away while the military or village headmen
instructed the villagers.

 

 

Lack of health care to those woman and child labourers

 

Q Did the women and children become sick in construction and did the authorities provide medicine and treatment?

It was depended on the worksite. When we were working in Kalein Aung, if someone got sickness, just brought to military medic and he treated free. But sometime, the military medic let you buy medicines in private shop. At the beginning of dry season in October and December, many villagers in Worksites, mostly women and children became sick because the weather was changed. It was too hot in day time and started difficult to get pure water after no more rain. Anyhow, you should maintain your health condition as far as you completed the defined work duty. You had to treat by yourselves with traditional ways by taking medicines taken from home and betel-nut leaves to reduce your fever. When we worked in Ye Bone worksite in October, the patients who were
getting sick with fever could not go to Kalein Aung because it was too far from worksite and you had to treat by yourselves.

 

 

Q Can you estimate how many women in number of every ten villagers (the percentage) who had worked in the construction? Not exactly,
please provide rough estimation.

The numbers of women in the construction were more than the man in every worksite I had ever been. When we left from our village, there were also more women than men. Estimately, there were six women in every ten villagers (60%) who worked in the construction. In the scene of worksite, you could see the most women were working. They have different age ranges. Some girls were only 10 years old while some women were sixty years old, but they worked together.

 

 

The normal forced labour for construction and hardship of survival of local community

 

Q Why did your husband let you always worked in the construction works and he did not go and work?

He was always busy with works in our farm and he knew better than me how to cultivate rice. So far I could not work in farming cultivation and I just have taken care of my home. In extra time, he also went to sea and fishing to seek more income. The most his works are hard which I could not work, but anyhow, I can work in the construction such digging ground and carrying dirt. The construction works without any income were very hard for me too, but we have no payment and no extra family member to substitute for me. That was why I always had to work there.

 

 

Q How did you know this refugee camp and do you think when you can return back to your home?

We knew this camp for a long time since three years ago. Recently, we knew this village as a Mon soldier village and later, we knew that this village is like a camp to receive people who fled from their villages and provide assistance especially foods. Then, we decided to come here and we don't know how to go to Kaw Thaung or Ranong, because we have no experience to work in Thailand. I think, when the military finished the railway construction we will
return back, but we are not sure. Besides the railway project, we had to pay them another kinds of tax and may be it must be not so safe to return back.