* 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 4/97   (September, 1997)

 

 

Conscription of Forced Labour by the SLORC

in Mon Areas' Development Projects

 

Report One

Ye-Tavoy Railway Construction


Report Two

Ye-Magyi Truck Road


Report Three

Kya-lnn-Seikyi-Taungbauk Truck Road


Some Acronyms

SLORC - State Law and Order Restoration Council,

NMSP - New Mon State Party,

KNU - Karen National Union,

KNLA - Karen National Liberation Army,

IB - Regular Infantry Battalion of SLORC,

LIB - Light Infantry Battalion of SLORC,

 

 

Conscription of Forced Labour by the SLORC
in Mon Areas' Development Projects

Introduction of road construction in Mon areas


When the military regime, SLORC, seized power in Rangoon in 1988, it has killed thousands of demonstrators on the roads of many cities in Burma. Because of this brutal actions against the peaceful demonstration, the world's governments have cut development and other assistance to SLORC. Thus, since the seizure of power, the SLORC has no possible minimum budget to implement huge development projects. The regime, at the same time, to keep unrecognized legitimate role in the international community, it has implemented several infrastructure projects in both urban and rural areas even it has less of budget. In this situation, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been consistently suffered from the conscription of forced labour by the military.

While SLORC is implementing various infrastructure development projects in the whole Burma it also builds many roads in Mon areas with aim to keep more control in ethnic nationalities' areas. But it always claims that it has tried to develop the rural areas of ethnic nationalities. The Mon areas mean where the ethnic Mon population is in majority and the road construction projects in these areas have been implemented with forced labour of local villagers since 1993. Under this banner, it also adopted a strategic plan to clean all ethnic armed forces in southern part of Burma.


In Mon areas, the SLORC has built mainly motor and rail roads by forcing the local Mon villagers. In this report, we would like to explain three road construction projects which has used many thousands of Mon villagers to contribute free labour. And we also focus on-going situation of construction of forced labour in previous 9 months of 1997.

 

 

The three road construction projects are:

 

(1) 110 mile (160 kilometers) long Ye-Tavoy railway construction

(2) 15 mile long Ye-Magyi truck road and

(3) 15 mile long Kya-Inn-Seikyi-Taungbauk Truck road.

 

The above Ye-Tavoy railway construction is an infrastructure development project of the government while the other two projects are local development implemented by the local SLORC authorities. Even the later two truck road constructions are considerably small development projects, thousands of villagers are conscripted as forced labourers to work in there and they are effected with various difficulties in their daily life.

 

 

Appalling condition in the work-site and Mistreatment by the military

 

Through for many years since the military conscripted the local villagers to build the railway and motor road, they were never provided any assistance by the military. They have to bring their own tools and foods to work in the construction.

 

Under the instruction of the military, the villagers were also put with burden works such as digging the earth, building embankment, collecting fire-woods and rails bed stones and etc.,. Since they have to contribute labour mostly in burden works, they have no rest time. In any work-site, they were never provided any shelters, foods, and other needs in the construction. Besides the help provided by the military, they also collect extortion from the villagers such as security tax in the area, money for hiring labourers and others.

 

While they are working in the construction, if their workforce is not met the satisfaction of the soldiers, they are severely punished. Or, if they took a rest in the construction site, they must be severely punished by the soldiers. If they are late to work, they also must be punished by the military again.

 

For instances,

In third week of March, a column of IB 61 which came from Ye to try arresting some robbers who actived in area between Koemile and Yapu area. When the soldiers launched a patrol inside the forest, they met about 20 villagers from Paukpin, Natkyisin villagers who were gathering firewoods. They arrested and beat all those villagers although they met the evidence that the villagers were cutting trees and sawing to get the needed length of fire-woods. The villagers explained to the soldiers they were instructed by LIB 408 to collect fire-woods for railway construction in making bricks, but the soldiers did not accept the complaint.

 

In second week of April, 1997, a sick man from Paukpingwin village working in the Ye-Tavoy railway construction was severely beaten by LIB 408. His name is Nai Seal, 54 years old, and he was conscripted as forced labourer although he got sick. While he was working, he tired and took a rest. Two soldiers who guarded the labourers came and beat him with their gun butts. He lost consciousness for a while and after he recovered the soldiers forced him to continue working.

 

In the last week of April, 1997, three villagers from Paukpingwin, Nai Aung Ngwe, Nai Gale, and Ah Lon (13 years old), were arrested in their farm while they were reaping the crops. They were detained for half day in the military outpost of LIB 408 in Paukpingwin village and the soldiers beat them with accusation they escaped the work-duties instructed by the soldiers, (see interview # 1)

 

In first week of March 1997, a man from Weithalee village of Kya-Inn-Seikyi township, Nai Nyae (60 years old), was beaten by the soldiers from LIB 356. He could not work like other villagers in building the embankment of Kya-Inn-Seikyi-Taungbauk truck road and one soldiers came and beat him severely. Then other two soldiers came and joined him in beating the old man. (The interviewee, 75 years old, in the below interview # 3 was also beaten by soldiers)

 

Normally, the villagers who are hardly working in construction under the bad weather conditions such as hard rains and sunshine always get sickness. But the military have never provided them with medicines and no health worker is assisted in the construction sites. The villagers brought along with them and when they are sick, they have to buy medicines and treat themselves.

 

 

Report One

 

Ye-Tavoy railway construction

 

Long-term conscription of forced labour and the situation in 1997

 

Sine the month of September, 1993, this railway construction was started with forced labourers of local villagers from four townships namely Ye township of Mon State and Yebyu, Tavoy and Thayet Chaung of Tenasserim Division. In the whole years of 1994 and 1995, SLORC's local military conscripted over 150, 000 local ethnic Mon, Tavoyan and Karen villagers to contribute their manual labour in the construction without payment. In May 1995, the lowest section of the railway about 30 mile long Yebyu-Tavoy construction was completed.

 

The SLORC always claimed that this road was built with self-help of the concerned community. In the beginning half year of 1996, huge number, about 200, 000, of villagers and town residents from lower section of Mon State and upper section of Tenasserim Division were conscripted to built this road to complete the embankment. Because of this constant conscription of forced labour, SLORC has been consistently condemned by the international community including UN Assembly, Human Rights Commission and many western governments.

 

In mid 1996, to counter the mounting of international pressure against its use of forced labour, SLORC reduced uses of forced labourers in the railway construction and in stead of using villagers they replaced with soldiers from local battalions to work with available payment. The battalions from LIB 401 through 410 has received payment from government and but at the same time, thousands of villagers have been still forced to work in the construction. From September through October, the villagers were conscripted again by these local military battalions From October 1996 up to the beginning of 1997, the conscription of massive villagers were stopped for a while. However, villagers from some village tracts were also forced to do many jobs supporting the construction such as collecting materials to build camps for soldiers in the work-sites along the road, gathering fire-woods and bring logistics and water, etc..

 

In February 1997, the conscription of forced labour was resumed again. SLORC had hurried to complete another section of construction from Ye to Koe-mile, the end point of Mon State. But this section of road was built with prisoners' labour from mid 1996 through mid 1997. At the same time, the military tried to complete all bridges from Ye to Yebyu.

 

Besides building the embankment, the villagers all village tracts along the road were forced in works such as cutting trees to get fire-woods in making bricks for bridge construction, to gather rails bed stones from the streams and forests and crash it to be a needed size and bring it to the embankment. And some were forced to cut hard-woods for rails sleepers.

 

At the same time, in April 1997, the military conscripted the villagers to find rails bed stones in the area. It was also a hard work. In every morning, the villagers had to travel to stream and collect the big stones. Then they crashed it into the needed pieces and brought it to rail road embankment. When we conducted interview with villagers, they explained that the whole family members including mother, sons and daughters had no time to work in their farms, plantations and fishing. They have considerably no income for the whole dry season.

 

Almost the construction of railway embankment was completed for the whole route, since the beginning of 1997, and as a next step SLORC has planned to complete building of bridges along the route. Estimately, there are 26 bridges to be built across big river and small streams along the route. In 1996, its local troops forced the villagers for a preparation in each bridge such as filling dirt and wood beside the stream or river banks and make it to be strong.

 

In each of bridge building, it needs a lot of bricks. A total of 26 bridges need many hundred tons of bricks and SLORC local troops could not bring it from the brick-making factories far from the area. Then it planned to make bricks in the places close to each bridge. In the process of making bricks, they needed huge fire-wood. The huge fire-wood must be used to burn the earth to become a good quality bricks. To get these fire-woods, the villagers in Natkyisin and Yepu village tracts were forced since the beginning of 1997 to find it in forests.

 

According a villager from Paukpingwin (in Natkyisin village tract), each family from this village tract had to provide at least 4 kyins of fire-woods per month. (100 cubic feet is a Kyin) They were instructed to provide the fire-woods from February through May. The villagers had responsibility to bring their fire-woods from forests to the railway and put it beside the road. At the same time, about 10 oxen-carts of each village were asked by the military for the transportation of these fire-woods to the designated places. Once when one village sold his oxen-cart as he cleverly refused from the conscription of oxen-cart from him, he was severely beaten by the military.

 

After many trees were cut in nearer forests, the villagers have to go further inside the forest to get fire-woods. The military will not accept the bad quality of fire-wood and the collection of it was a hard work-duty for all villagers to complete in set time. According to a villager who reached to a Mon refugee camp, he said that if one person of the family to get one Kyin of firewood and bring it to the designed places, he may have to spend at least 7 days. Thus, all family members have to hurry to get the set quota of fire-wood by the military or they will face punishment. For the villagers who could not provide fire-woods must have to hire substitute or buy it from other villagers. One Kyin of fire-wood costs about 1000 Kyat.

 

While some villagers from the same village tract were facing to find fire-wood, some villagers from another village tract to find rails sleepers. The villagers from Yapu village tract who have no responsibility to find fire-wood were forced to provide rails sleepers. The military need the high quality of hard-wood to make sleepers. These villagers were instructed to bring totally about 2,500 pieces of sleepers. The measures of a sleeper is six inches square in block and six feets in length.

 

At the same time, the villagers from both village tracts were forced to collect stones for rails bed stones without any payment. All families in these villages were also consistently forced to collect rails bed stones in the streams or hills and bring to the embankment of railway, crash it into the needed size, and lay it on the embankment.

Each family was forced to work these works at least one week per month.

 

In 1997, the construction of this road section was used with forced labour of about 500 prisoners. Those prisoners were normally brought from Moulmein jail. The prisoners with tackled iron chains were used to work to carry stones, crash it and lay on the embankment. The railway engineers laid the iron rail through the route. This section of railway construction was absolutely completed in June. In July, the commander of Southeastern Military Command, Maj. General Ket Sein came to Ye and attended the opening ceremony of the railway.

 

 

The role of soldiers in the construction

 

Since mid of June, 1996, through the beginning of 1997, only two battalions of SLORC's LIB 401 and 407 have continuously worked in the construction. The both battalions' soldiers received payment from this project and before they started the projects, each battalions received about one million Kyat advance payment from the government. The government agreed to give contract and whenever they completed some processes of the construction, they must surely receive the possible payment from the government again.

 

The above mentioned LIB 401 and 407 have taken contract to work in the construction section between the Eindayaza and Hsinku village. The LIB 408 also took contract from the government and worked in the construction section between Paukpingwin and 14 miles area for two months in September and October, 1996, and later the soldiers abandoned the agreement and stopped working.

 

When the soldiers forced the villagers in the construction, they did not feel how the works were hard and when they really worked even with payment, they knew all works in the construction were hard. When the soldiers agreed to work in the construction and took contract from the government, the villagers had already completed the building of rail embankment which is the most hardest works among all processes of the construction. When the soldiers started working, they did not have to build the embankment and just collected rails bed stones and laid on the embankment. This work was the last process of construction before laying iron rails.

 

Up to May 1997, only two battalions LIB 401 and LIB 407 left in the construction and the other battalions returned to their barracks and stopped working. Most soldiers felt disappointed for hard work in the construction and abandoned it, but the government never took actions to their men. Previously whenever the villagers escaped from the conscription of forced labour or work-force was not met satisfaction of the soldiers, they must have been severely beaten or mistreated by the soldiers.

 

After many soldiers disagreed and abandoned working in the construction, the government could not finish this construction in time as it hoped. That was why the conscription of forced labour from the local villagers was resumed again at the beginning of 1997. The population number working in the construction was not huge like previous years in 1995 and 1996. According to villagers in the Hsinku and Eindayaza village tracts, although the LIB 401 and 408 are working in the construction, the villagers were also asked by these battalions to build the labour camps, to make cooking, to collect fire-woods for the military. At least 2 male villagers from each village have been constantly asked by the military.

 

In the Paukpingwin-14-mile construction section, after LIB 408 stopped working, the higher SLORC authorities tried to get another troops to replace. But no troop came and agreed to work. Then, the officers from LIB 408 started conscripting the villagers again.

SLORC hired and gave contract to the skill workers who came from other areas to make bricks for bridge construction. Those skill workers received 600 Kyat per kyin of bricks from the factories. (One Kyin of brick is in measures of 100 cubic feets.) According to them they receive about 2,000 Kyat per Kyin when they sell it to the private or construction companies. But they satisfied with the price the military paid them because they did not have no duty to collect firewoods.

 

Thus, the villagers have been suffered from the conscription of forced labour for the whole time and when they could not provide manual labour they have to contribute payment to the military or hired the substitute. As a result, the local villagers abandoned their villages, homes, farms, lives-stocks and then escaped into border area's refugee camps or Thailand to seek jobs.

 


Interview  # 1

Name: Nai Aung Ngwe

Age/ Sex: 37 years/ male

Nationality/ Religion: Mon/Buddhism

Occupation: Farmer

Native Place: Paukpingwin Village, Yebyu township, Tenasserim Division.

Interview Date: 5 May, 1997

 

 

When did you arrive here (a plantation in east of Ye-Tavoy motor road because he was internally displaced) and why?

 

I arrived here about three days ago. The Burmese Army and the village chairman forced us to work in that railway construction very often. We had no time to work in our own farm. We had to work for them for the whole time and later we faced food-shortage and then I moved here.

 

 

Which part of road you had to contribute labour?

 

This year (in 1997), we almost had to work in work-site closely to our village. The section from our village  to 14 mile village (about 5 mile long section). Last year (in 1996) we had to go to Tavoyan area (in southern part of the railway), in section between Ye Bone and Kalein Aung.

 

 

How many days in one month you have to work in the work-site close to your village?

 

About 20 days in one month. We had no extra time to work in farm. We had to go to the work-site everyday in the morning. We brought our own tool and foods from our homes and worked for them (the military).

 

 

Besides your village, did other villagers have to work like you?

 

Yes. There were many hundreds of villagers from Waepeal, Natkyisin, Kyaukadin and others worked in the construction sites like us. But they worked in the respective section close to their village. The military defined the construction section for those villagers.

 

 

What were the main works you had worked as the whole time you were used as forced labourer?

 

We had to collect a lot of fire-woods. The soldiers told us to collect it and bring to brick-making factories, to burn the earth. The bricks were used to build bridges. We went into forest and cut many small trees and carried it to the factories or to the construction site and then the oxen-carts came and brought it to the factories. The military and the village chairman (village leader) told to every family in the village, each of them must provide four kyins of fire-woods in one month. We had to provide 4 kyins of fire-woods every month from February through May in this year.

 

 

Where the brick-making factories were established?

 

Normally, the factories were built beside every bridge along the route. We had to walk at least 2-3 hours from the forest we cut fire-wood to the factories.

 

 

Did you receive any payment for fire-wood from the military?   Did the workers in the brick-making factories receive payment for their labour?

 

No. We, the villagers, did not receive any payment. But the workers in the factories received payment from the military. They received about 600 Kyat per kyin of bricks produced from their factories. Most workers came from Ye northern area's villages and they were not native villagers.

 

 

Did you have to work only collecting fire-woods?   Or, did you have to contribute labour in other works related to railway construction?

 

No. Not only collecting fire-woods, but we also had to gather stones to lay on the embankment. Besides collecting fire-woods, at least about four days every month we had to gather bigs and small stones to embankment and crashed to get the needed size. We gathered these stones in streams and hills. Every day about 40 villagers from the village had to work this stone-gathering work and on a rotating basis, each family had to work about 4 days per month.

 

 

How many days you have to spend to collect one kyin of fire-woods?

 

At least five days. We went into forests for three days to cut some 10 inches or one feet diameter of trees and bring it to the factories. We cut trees about three days and then spent two days to bring it to the factories. Every family had to send two members to complete this work within five days.

 

 

How did the military conscript the villagers to work in the construction?

 

They conscripted the villagers to work in the construction and other works related to the railway construction through our village chairman. They have all lists of family and population number with them. The LIB 408 discussed and sent instruction to village chairman that how many kyins of fire-woods they needed from our village or how many villagers they needed to gather rail bed stones.

 

 

If someone refused to work according to the instruction, how he/she was treated by the military or your village chairman?

 

If someone refused the order, he must be severely beaten by the soldiers from village's base. Nobody dared to refuse because they knew behaviour of the soldiers. But when the villagers were late to reach to work-site on the set date, they were severely punished by the soldiers. Our village chairman is very bad in treating his villagers. He always follows according to military instructions and he also likes to beat or punish his own villagers. He also owns an small detention cell in his house's compound. The village chairman, himself, told to the villagers that "If you refuse to collect fire-woods or rails bed stones, please leave from this village soon. I wouldn't like to see you faces anymore".

 

 

Did the military beat the villagers in the construction sites or in their bases?   Did the soldiers ever beat you?

 

In both places. Yes, I was beaten by the soldiers from our village base, LIB 408. Once at the beginning of January, when I worked reaping rice in my farm, village chairman and four soldiers came and arrested three of us, me, my brother and my 13 years old son. We were brought to the bases. The soldiers told us why we escaped to the farm and refused the order that the military need 20 villagers to work in the railway. I told them just three days ago, I came back to home after collecting two kyins of fire-woods for the factories. The village chairman did not remember our work-duties that he gave and did not support our complaint. Then the soldiers beat us with gun-butts, jungle-boots and fists. On the next day they sent us to the work-site again.

 

 

Will you stay here longer or return to your village?

 

I would not like to abandon my farm. If the situation is better I will return or the situation is worse I will go into Thailand.

 

 

Report Two

Ye-Magyi Truck Road

 

This road is divided into two sections. The first section is from Ye to Khawza village and the second section is from Khaw Za to Magyi village, the edge of Mon State. This road run along the sea coast area in the southern part of Ye town and passes several Mon villages. Although the road is not long like Ye-Tavoy railway, several hundreds of the local Mon villagers have been suffered from the consistent conscription of forced labour.

 

In 1995, under the supervision of IB 61 and LIB 304, the first section of 10 mile long truck road was completed by forcing the villagers nearby to contribute unpaid labour. In 1996, some part of this road was destroyed by flood water and the local troops collected cash from the local villagers to repair it. When they actually repaired it, the troops asked unpaid labour from the villages again.

 

The remaining section is shorter than the first one and it has only 5 miles long. The construction of this section was started since mid 1996 and the military defined the route along the old cart-track. In enlarging the width of the road, the military confiscated many acres of rice farmlands without any payment along the route.

In building the embankment, all families from the villages along the route namely Khaw Za, Yinye, Yindein, Thabya, Khonkanya, Mitawhlagyi, Mitawhlagale, Magyi, Taungkhon, Kyauktayan, were conscripted by the military to contribute unpaid labour. At least 30 to 50 villagers from each village had been working to build the embankment since January to May of 1997. They had to work in the construction at least one week in every month. The main work-duty was to dig the earth from outside of the route and fill it in the defined embankment up to 3 feets in height. If they hired a substitute labourer they have to pay 200 Kyat per day.

 

When the route crosses the rivers and streams, the villagers have been also forced to build the bridges and the military never provided any machine support. The villagers have to build these bridges according to instruction by the military by their own hands. There are totally 7 big bridges on the route. Some bridges are already completed building. The villagers themselves have to find big logs to use for poles and surfaces of the bridge and the villagers' oxen-carts and fishing boats were also asked by the military without payment to bring these logs from the islands or forests.

 

At the moment, almost the embankment of the whole road Ye to Magyi is completed and there is no exact plan by government whether they create this road as proper one by laying tar or not. Anyhow, because of forced conscription on villagers to provide unpaid labour and cash collection to complete this road, many local Mon villagers abandoned their villages and escaped the forced labour.

 


Interview # 2

 

Name: Nai Kyi

Age/Sex: (33) years, Male

Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhism

Occupation: Farmer

Native Place: Khaw Za village, Ye Township, Mon State.

Interview Date: 5 April, 1997.

 


When did you arrive to this village (a Mon refugee camp)?   And why?

 

I arrived here about one week ago. We were always forced to work for the military while we were in village. We had to work for the military for the whole time such as building the road, portering, building barracks and etc.. Because of regular tax extortion by the military, last year I sold my farm and became a day-labourer. In this year, I had very few day to work for income to support my family. At the end, I have to come here with my family.

 

 

Which road you have to build?

 

Ye-Magyi truck road.   We have to build this road in the section close to our village. What kind of work did you have to work?

For the whole dry season, we had continuously worked building the embankment of this road. We dug out earth from outside of embankment and filled it on the embankment. They (the military) need the embankment with 3 feets in height. The width of the embankment is about 12 feets along the whole route. We dug the earth outside of the route, carried and filled it on the embankment up to its height was reached about 3 feets.

 

 

How did the military define work-duty for each family and how many day did you have to work in each month?

 

They instructed the order to the village headmen that how many yard of road embankment for our villagers and the village headmen defined the work-duty to all villagers. On a rotation basis, every time they demanded villagers, about one third of the whole village had to go and build the embankment. The village headmen instructed to complete about 4 feet of embankment for each family. We had to complete this work-duty about three days and then we could return. Sometime, we had to work for four days. In one month, we were asked to work like this work-duty for three times. Thus, we contributed labour at least about 10 days in the construction.

 

 

Besides the building of embankment, did you have to work another works related to this construction?

 

Yes. We had to build bridges in every stream which crosses the route. All bridges were built by men and the military did not provide any mechanical assistance to the villagers. In building these bridges, the oxen-carts and boats were also conscripted by the military. The villagers cut big trees to make poles and surfaces of the bridges. The villagers had to carry these big trees by boats along the seacoast or by oxen-carts.

 

 

Did the soldiers guard the villagers while you were working in the construction?

 

No. Sometimes, the commanders and his soldiers came from Ye and checked the construction situation of the road every week. When they pass along the embankment, the soldiers always shout the villagers to hurry up to complete work-duty. The villagers were also afraid when the soldiers. Sometimes they also kicked the men when they dissatisfied on their workforce. If they met someone taking a rest, he must be kicked.

 

 

How much your income for one month?  Is it enough to feed you family?

 

As a day-labourer, I earn about 3000 Kyat per month. I worked in a fishing boat and went into sea to catch fishes. We gave fishes to the boat owner and received salary from him. If I didn't have to work for the military, I received full salary. But later when I often worked for the military in construction or building the military barracks, the boat owner cut my salary.    It made me very difficult to support my family.  That was why I flee from my native village.

 

 

Report Three

 

Kya-lnn-Seikyi-Taungbauk Truck Road

 

This truck road is about 15 miles long and situating inside Karen State. It connects Kya-Inn-Seikyi town and one big Mon village, Taungbauk. The construction was started before the end of 1996 and reached a standstill in May of 1997. In the whole period of construction, the villagers from many Mon villages were constantly conscripted as forced labourers to build the embankment of the road.

 

The whole construction project is administrated by IB No. 32, which bases in Kya-Inn-Seikyi town and Taungbauk village. So the instructed orders for the conscription of villagers were come from the military commanders of this military battalion. The villagers from villagers namely Taungbauk, Htipaukhlo, Waitharlee, Pharkapo, Bokadaw, Lakepoke, Kalortort Chaung, Badargyi, West Waitharlee, Tadarpyat, Kyaukpon, Kyaukya and others, were constantly forced to build the embankment of this road. The most villages are around the construction area and some are situating on the bank of Zami river.

 

About, at low estimation, 500 villagers were asked by the military in every day construction work. The biggest village such as Taung Bauk and Wai Thar Lee village had to provide at least about 50 villagers per day to work in the construction. Due to the population numbers of a village, the village headmen had to arrange to send the villagers according to instruction by the battalion. Even a very small village with 40 households had to provide about 10 villagers every day. Hence, each men or women from each family had to work in the construction about ten days within one month.

 

The road passes through the rice-fields and rubber plantations owned by Taungbauk, Htipaukhlo, Waitharlee and Bokadaw villagers. Although the road runs along former cart path, the embankment was enlarged and the lands along the route were confiscated. Besides for the width of embankment, about 10 feet of the lands in each side of the route were also confiscated to get earth from these spaces and fill it on the embankment. All these lands were confiscated by the military without compensation. The width of the embankment is about 15 feet and the height of it has about 5 feet at highest place while about 3 feet at lowest place.

 

At the beginning of 1997, the villagers around the area were also suffered by arresting of porters by the military to launch the military offensives against the KNU/KNLA. The arrests and ransom related to the portering forced the villagers to leave their home villages in the dry season. Many poorest families in the area reached to Three Pagoda Pass area's border villages or Mon refugee camp. (See interview # 3)

 

 

Interview # 3

 

Name: Nai Aung Kyi

Sex/ Age: Male/ 75 years

Nationality/ Religion: Mon/ Buddhist

Occupation: Farmer

Native Place: Wai Thar Lee village, Kya-Inn-Seikyi township, Karen State

 

 

When did you arrive to this village (Halockhani refugee camp) and what is your main work in your native village?

 

I arrived here two days ago. (He has no house and his whole family stayed with other refugees' houses.) While I was in my village, I had a small farm and I grew rice. But the soil is bad and we could not get much crops. I also cut fire-woods in the forest and sell it to make income. After the end of rainy season, I grew vegetables and sell it in the village.

 

In this year, after I gave rice to the government (the government officials buy rice from local farmers with low price, and. the farmers feel likely they give their rice to government with free of charge), I left only 200 baskets of rice. In March, one of my sons was arrested by soldiers to use him as porter and I gave 25, 000 Kyat to the military in Kya-Inn-Seikyi town to take him back. Many villagers were arrested by soldiers were arrested by soldiers and they were sent to the front-lines in offensives against the Karen soldiers.

 

 

Besides the arrests of the porters in dry season, did the soldiers forced you to provide free labour in the construction?

 

Yes. The soldiers forced us to build the road that came from Kya-Inn-Seikyi town. The Burmese troops from IB. No. 32 from Kya-Inn-Seikyi town always came to our village and called the meetings with village headmen and sometimes, with villagers. Normally, every time they came they asked for regular porters or labourers to build the road.

 

The villager labourers were used to build the Kya-Inn-Seikyi-Taungbauk road construction. Since last year November, about 50 villagers from our village had to work in the construction everyday. Some rich villagers paid cash to military through village headmen and avoid the forced labour. But they were very little number.

 

 

Where is the work-site?   Did the villagers sleep in the work-sites?

 

No. The work-site is not so far from our village. We can go early morning and take foods along with us. We completed works about 5 p.m. in the evening. The villagers far from the work-site who came from Bokadaw, Lakepyot, Pharkapo, Thadarpyat, Badargyi and other villagers slept in our village's monastery and left to the work-site together with us.

 

 

How did the military instruct conscripting the villagers who were far from the construction?

 

They gave the orders directly to the village headmen and instructed the number of villagers to work in the construction site. If the village headmen refused, the military threatened the villagers that they will burn down the villages. The soldiers could not reach very often to these villages but while they launched patrol with huge number of troops they could burn down the villages into ashes. So the villagers were afraid and went to the construction.

 

 

Did the soldiers guard the villagers while they were working?    Did they mistreat the villager?

 

Yes. Most soldiers from Kya-Inn-Seikyi town were guarding the villagers while working. They walked around and along the embankment and if they met the villagers stopped working, he must be beaten by them. Once, I was also beaten by two young soldiers. As I was an old man, while I was taking a rest under a small tree in the rice-field, the two soldiers met and shout me to continue working. I could not move fast to the construction and because of I was slow, they came and beat me severely. They beat me with their strong fist. One soldier tied me up with his strong arms and other one beat my face with his fist. My whole face became black and two teeth broke. I got severe injury.

 

 

Were the other villagers beaten like you?

 

I think very few. Most young villagers could work for the whole time and met satisfaction of the soldiers. The old man like me we could not work hard and that made the soldiers to anger.

 

 

Besides the conscription of forced labour in the road construction, can you explain me what other abuses have been committed by soldiers?

 

The arresting of the porter is very constant in our village. Sometimes, in the normal situation when there were no fightings with Karen troops, they always asked for regular porters to carry supplies and ammunitions for their patrol. From February through May, they came into village very often and arrest the villagers to use as porters in their big offensives against the Karen troops. About 50 villagers from our village were arrested and they were sent to the frontline. Before I came here, as I knew, three villagers disappeared and I thought they will die in the battles.

 

 

Related to portering case, how did the villagers have to pay the military?

 

If one of your relatives, your son or husband, was arrested you must have to pay the military from 10, 000 Kyat (in February) to 25, 000 Kyat (in March) to get him back. The portering fee for each family every month is around 300 Kyat. While they have offensives against the Karen troops, they asked about 1000 Kyat per month.