News, Personal Accounts, Report & Analysis on Human Rights Situation in Mon Territory and Other Areas Southern Part of Burma

 

The Mon Forum

Issue No. 2/99   February 28, 1999

 

The Publication of Human Rights Foundation of Monland (BURMA)

 

 

Contents

 

News:

(1)     Conscription of forced labour in Widening of Ye-Tavoy Motor Road,

(2)     SPDC Troops used civilians as human-shields on Three Pagoda Pass-Thanbyuzayzat Motor Road,

 

Report:

(1) Forced labour in construction of dikes for army's rice cultivation lands in Yebyu township area

 

Some Acronyms in This Issue


SPDC-   State Peace and Development Council,

IB -        Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),

LIB-       Light Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),

KNU-     Karen National Union,

KNLA-   Karen National Liberation Army,

NMSP-   New Mon State Party.

 

 

News

 

Conscription of Forced Labour in Widening of Ye-Tavoy Motor  Road

(February, 1999)

 

Since mid-November, 1998, SPDC local battalions in Tenasserim Division planned to widen Ye-Tavoy motor road, "which is about 90 miles long, and have used the civilians in Yebyu and Tavoy township area as unpaid labourers to complete the construction. The order came from SPDC's Coastal Region Military Command based in Mergui town and its Commander Maj. Gen. Sit Maung also gave responsibility to Col. Maung Oo, the commander of Strategic Command in Yebyu area, to complete this construction. In mid-November, Col. Maung Oo also called a meeting with all village leaders in Yebyu township and instructed them to send the villager labourers to the contraction sites.

 

According to reliable sources, France's oil and gas company TOTAL company also donated about 200,000 Kyat per mile for widening some parts of motor road to the local authorities to help for the construction. However, the local military battalions have conscripted many hundreds of villagers to the construction sites to widen the motor road. The local authorities also shared the work-duties to villagers that each family in Yebyu and Tavoy townships had to take responsibility to build widening about 20 meters long road. A member or more than one member of each family had to clear one meter of land along both side of the road and fill with small pieces of stones. Then, the villagers have to take responsibility to dig the earth to create water canals along the road. They have to dig the earth to get 2 feet width and 1 feet depth water canal alongside of the road after they completed widening the road. From these water canal, the villagers have to clear foliage for another 50 feet in both sides of the road.

 

In building the new widen road, the villagers have to carry small kyins of small pieces of stones from outside of the road and laid these stones in the road. They have to collect these big stones from hills or streams which are at least far half a mile or one mile from the construction site. The villagers collected these stones and crashed these into small pieces of stones and then brought to construction site. Sometimes, all villagers from a village collected these stones and brought it together to the construction site with oxen-carts. If the villager could not get stones, or were hurry to complete the construction, they have to buy small pieces of stones from the nearest military battalions. Generally, the villagers have to pay at least 800-1,000 Kyat for one kyin of stones to the battalions which takes responsibility or guarding the villagers along the road. And the villagers have to pay transportation costs to load and bring these small pieces of stones to the place in which they have to lay.

 

In this construction, under the command of Strategic Commander Col. Maung Oo, two SPDC local battalions, LIB No. 408 and 410, have taken responsibility to complete widening this Ye-Tavoy motor road. During the construction, these two battalions also conscripted some villagers and gave work-duties to gather stones besides to construct the road. After they gathered stones, they have to give it to the battalions. Then, battalions re-sell these stones again to another villagers who urgently needed the stones. According to reliable sources, the local battalions also received government budget, about 200,000 Kyat per mile to complete widening the road, but these battalions conscripted forced labour from local villages and did not pay any labour cost to the villagers. By these ways, the battalions have found fund for battalions or the commanders have enjoyed in corruption to find for self-profit during this construction.

 

Before they left the work-sites, the villagers were also instructed by their headmen to carry their own foods, cashes and tools to there because the military would not provide any foods or tools for villagers. The villagers said they might have to carry about 30 kilograms of rice to the work-site, which might be enough to eat for one week in there and 1,000 Kyat cash to buy supplement foods such as cooking oil, vegetables and etc.. Because of this construction, the villagers have less and less time to work their own works to get incomes or crops for survival. As a result, some villagers also fled from the native village to escape from the constant conscription of forced labour for this Ye-Tavoy motor road and other type of forced labour that often

has been required by the SPDC battalions.

 

 

SPDC Troops Used Civilians as Human-shields on Three Pagoda Pass-Thanbyuzayat Motor Road

(January, 1999)

 

On January 14, 1999, when a SPDC military battalion, IB No. 97, led by battalion commander Lt. Col. Tin Aye and second commander Lt. Thein Tun Aung and about 200 troops moved to Three-Pagoda-Pass town to change with another battalion, IB No. 62, the commanders and soldiers used civilians and traders as human-shields to prevent themselves from the attack of KNLA troops. The attack incident was happened near a village called, Anan-gwin, which is about 25 miles far from Thanbyuzayat, and 4 civilians died on the spot and other 16 of them got serious injuries due to attack.

 

In the first week of January, Southeast Region Military Command ordered IB No. 97, which based in Kawkareik town of Karen State, to move to Three Pagoda Pass town and take base there by changing with IB No. 62 battalion led by Lt. Col. Myo Win Aung. On a rotation basis, one battalion can take base only three months in Three Pagoda Pass town and it must change 'with other battalion when the order from the Commander come. When Burmese Army moved to this route of Three Pagoda Pass-Thanbyuzayat motor road, IB No. 97 joined with LIB No. 230 and launched military operation and attacked KNU/KNLA troops in Kya-Inn-Seikyi township along the way they moved down. Thus, the KNLA troops also waited better opportunity to attack IB No. 97's troops as a revenge.

 

On January 13, 1999, in the evening time, IB No. 97 arrived at Anan-gwin and stopped all trucks in the truck station and did not allow them to travel. On the next day, the soldiers stopped more trucks and gathered in there. This was the attempt of the soldiers to go together with civilians and truck ferries to Three Pagoda Pass town. In evening about 6:00 p.m. the soldiers forced two trucks with full civilians to leave from that village and moved ahead. When the truck drivers refused to move, they were slapped by soldiers and decided to move. The trucks with soldiers followed at behind of the first two trucks. After about one hour they left from the village, the first two trucks were attacked by KNLA troops in the dark about 7:00 p.m.

Actually, KNLA knew that the SPDC will leave from Anan-gwin and they have waited to attack them for some days. KNU/KNLA also ordered the trucks to not make any travel during night and so they thought the trucks loading with SPDC troops moved at night time. Because of dark condition, Karen troops did not clearly see whether trucks are loading civilians or soldiers, they made a sudden attack to the trucks. After they heard the crying sound of women and children, they stopped shooting and retreated back their troops back.

 

Normally, the civilians who died and got serious injuries were Mon traders and young men and women who tried to go into Thailand to seek jobs, and children who came along their parents. Most came from Mudon, Moulmein and Paung townships of Mon State. This road is normally used for traders to bring goods between Thailand and Burma. After those civilians were seriously injured, all of them were brought to Thanbyuzayat hospital but IB No. 97's troops continued their journey to another village. While those patients including truck drivers, were treated in hospital, the patients did not receive any medical treatment costs from government or concerned battalions. Their families or relatives had to pay every cost for treatments.

 

Due to constant military operations launched by SPDC against the KNU/KNLA, the security conditions along the Three Pagoda Pass-Thanbyuzayat motor road became quiet unsafe for travelers, local civilians and traders who had to rely on this road. However, they have no choice for survival and many of them have used this road to make income. The SPDC troops always looked for opportunity to use civilian porters or traders as human-shields to protect themselves from the attack of KNLA troops and so the civilians have always tried to avoid to not travel with government troops.

 

 

Report

Forced Labour in Construction of Dikes for Army's Rice Cultivation Lands in Yebyu Township Area

 

Supply Cuts to Army and Creation of Self-support in SPDC Local Battalions

 

In July, 1998, the respective SPDC local military battalions under the commands of Southeast Military Division and Coastal Region Military Division were instructed to provide food supplies for themselves and the government food rations were cut due to food-shortage in government supply ware-houses. According to orders instructed by the top level officers, the local military battalion commanders had to take responsibility to seek foods for their soldiers.

 

After instructing this new order, some military battalions in Mon State, Karen State and Tenasserim Division also confiscated farmlands from farmers or explored new lands to use it for farming rice crops. In some areas, the farmlands owned by farmers were confiscated by forces without paying compensated costs and the nearest farmers were also forced to do farming rice or other cash crops for these lands. The farmers were forced to plough lands, prepare lands, grow plants, reap crops and other works. As examples, the local military battalions such as IB No. 106, LIB No. 343 in Ye township confiscated about 150 acres of rice-cultivation farmlands and 50 acres of salt-produced lands in northern part of Ye township and forced the local farmers again to do farming. During July and August, 1998, at least about 20 farmers were forced to do farming and they had to work for three days as one round and the village headmen had to arrange to send village labourers on a rotation basis to those army's farms. Similarly, the local military battalions LIB No. 209 also confiscated lands in Mudon township and however, the soldiers themselves have worked in the farms but not conscripted local villagers to do farming. In many townships of Karen State, the local military battalions not only confiscated farmlands from farmers but also forced the former owners of the lands to continuously work in the farms. Then, after harvest, they paid labour costs or gave small amount of paddy produced from the farms.

 

According to a 46 years old farmer in Taungbone village, Ye township, he said:

 

"During June and July, when the rain started, the soldiers from Tamortkanin village (IB No. 106) ordered our village headman to send about 10 farmers to work in the soldiers owned farms near our village. So the villagers had to go early morning and took foods from their homes. When the soldiers instructed to plough the lands, we also had to bring some tools and oxen to their farms along with us.

Then we also have to grow plants in the farms again. The soldiers also took rice plants from other farmers' farms and let the villagers grow in their farms.   So far, I had to work about nearly 15 days (five rounds) in their soldiers farms, while I was hurry up to complete rice growing in my farms."

 

At the same time, some local battalions in Mon State collected funds from local civilians by instructing town ward leaders and village headmen, and invested these funds in some businesses.     In October, 1998, Southeast Military Command instructed the local military battalions to collect 70 millions Kyat fund for disabled soldiers in the whole Mon State.   The civilians who owned rubber plantations, gold-ware selling shops, commodity shops, car and motor-bike repair shops, and other small business were forced to pay different amount of cashes to the nearest military battalions. According to reliable sources, these funds were distributed to some battalions to do businesses such as fishing concession, logging concession, transportation companies and others.    Normally, these battalions collaborated with private companies and participated in concessions as share-holders. From the profits they received from those businesses, they provided food supplies for the own battalion soldiers and paid some to disable soldiers.   As an example, IB No. 61 which bases in Ye town also owned shares with a transportation company and it created a Car Association in Ye and used many cars as ferries between Moulmein and Ye towns.

 

In areas where the battalions could not participate in businesses or could not get farmlands also explored some unused lands to be farms and made dikes to distribute water to the farms. In Yebyu township, because of thousands of SPDC troops deployment and less of farmlands in the area, many local battalions explored new lands to do farming. However for the rice cultivation lands, these need a lot of water to be able for growing rice. Therefore, the local villagers have been constantly forced to build embankments and dikes that need to close many streams and rivers in area.

 

 

Construction of Four Dikes in Yebyu Township Area

Under the instruction of Coastal Region Military Division that bases in Tavoy town, the capital of Tenasserim Division, the local battalions in Ye township LIB No. 401 through 410, LIB No, 273 have to build four dikes with objective to provide food supplies to estimated 6,000 soldiers and government servants in this township area. Normally, the local residents are working many acres of rubber plantation, betel-nut plantation and others. Less than half of the population in the area grows rice and therefore, although the government authorities set up many paddy-buying centers, they could receive only little amount of paddy. These amount of paddy is too less if compared with the numbers of soldiers and government servants. After the government could not provide food supplies for the soldiers, the higher commanders instructed the local battalions' commanders to explore farmlands for rice-cultivation.

 

Because of this instructed orders, about 15 local military battalions that base in Yebyu township area planned to build four long and big dikes near seacoast area of Yebyu township area. In building these dikes, the commanders of all battalions in the townships have

been given responsibility to manage all works. While they are managing to build the dikes, thousands of local inhabitants, Mon, Karen and Tavoyan villagers have been constantly conscripted as "forced labourers".

 

 

A. The Construction of "Singu" Dikes

 

In June, 1998, a local SPDC battalion LIB No. 407 conscripted some hundreds of villagers from Singu and Eindayaza village tracts and forced them to find the route that needed to build long embankment. This new embankment passes four main wide streams namely, Kyauk-zon, Kalar-mu, War-taw and Mayan-chaung. According villagers this embankment is long about 5, 000 meters. In building this dike, the military commanders planned to build big and strong embankment with labour contribution of the local villagers.

 

They planned to build 10 meter in width and 3 meters in height embankment including closing all streams which were right on embankment route. They forced the villagers to dig earth outside of the embankment and filled in it. At the same time, the most hard work for the villagers was to close the streams. The soldiers forced the villagers to cut trees and build walls with several pole-poles in the streams and put earth between the walls and ' close the streams.

 

In June and July, 1998, the local battalion LIB No. 407 forced about 200-300 villagers initially and forced them to clear foliage and cut trees which were along the set route. The villagers have to clear about 25 meters in width along the route and so the village headmen from nearly 10 villages near the construction had to arrange providing village labourers to the construction sites. After two months clearing the route, more villagers about 500-600 villagers in estimation were daily conscripted by soldiers to build the embankment along the route. Although the embankment was instructed to be built with 3 meters in height, the villagers had to build more higher when ever the embankment passed low places. The embankment must be the same level in all places, the villagers had to fill earth in many low places along the route. The building of embankment have taken for over four months but the whole construction have not completed yet.

 

Besides four main four main and big streams, there were several small streams along the route. Before the soldiers did closing water or building parallel walls in these big streams, they forced the villagers to close all small streams which were on the route. Then the villagers built to get the same level or height of embankment. Although since September/October, 1998, the building of embankment in small streams were started one by one, this process of construction was absolutely completed at the end of the year.

 

Since the beginning, over 500 villagers from three village tracts, Eindayaza, Singu and Kywe-tho-nyima, in the daily construction of this dike. In September and October, 1998, the soldiers also conscripted about 100 villagers from Natkyisin village tract and forced them to cut trees and send wood poles which were needed to be used in making water walls. At least one house in the village had to cut about 15 feets long 20 trees and sent it to the construction site. The villagers in Natkyisin villagers had to go to forests to cut trees and then sent these trees by oxen-carts or trucks. When the needed amount of cut trees arrived to the construction site, the soldiers forced the villagers from the closest three village tracts to build water walls and fill earth between the two walls to get strong embankment. This process of construction is still in on-going situation. Therefore, the villagers from three village tracts have to work for the construction on the daily basis.

 

 

While our human rights conducted an interview with an 30 year old villager from Singu village, he explained as below:

 

"In June, the soldiers from LIB No. 407 came to our village, went to village headman house and instructed him they have to build a dike in east of our village and needed some villagers from our village to start it. On the next day, village headman called a meeting with all villagers and told the plan of the army. First, they instructed the villagers to find the route. They confiscated some lands, I think about 500 acres and planned to grow rice. These large lands have been used for villagers to raise their cattle for many years. But nobody could dare to tell them to not confiscate the lands, and so every village kept quiet. After we find the route, they also continuously forced the villagers to fill earth in all small streams. For the cleaning foliage along the route, it took about three weeks and then to fill the earth in streams it took about three months. Luckily, because of no much

rain during rainy season, we had no problem in closing the streams.

 

Then, the soldiers instructed the villagers to cut trees to make poles in closing big streams. When we closed the small streams, because these streams are not so deep, we did not have to put poles in there. We just dug earth and filled along the route of embankment. When the earth was fully filled in streams, these streams were absolutely closed. Differently, when the soldiers ordered to close the large streams or rivers, we have to find wood poles and put them to create to parallel tree walls across the rivers. Then the villagers were forced to fill earth between the two walls. This work was terrible, so I have no time to work in farm and I decided to flee from homes."

 

Because of constant conscription of forced labour and consequence conditions in the work-sites, may villagers from the area have fled from their villages and displaced inside the country.

 

 

B. The Construction of "Hmaw-gyi" Dike

 

The construction of this Hmaw-gyi dike was started since July, 1998, like Singu dike. At the beginning, SPDC local troops from LIB No. 408 took responsibility to find route for embankment and it passes about three big and main streams and, other 13 small streams. The measured length of route is in estimation about 4,000 meters and therefore, the villagers in the area have been constantly conscripted by army and they have to complete the construction step by step.

 

First, like the construction of Singu dike, the villagers were forced to find the possible route that was situated in the west side of Hmaw-gyi village and so the route also passed into small forests and grass fields. Then the villagers continuously cleared foliage and cut trees along the route. In clearing the route, the villagers were ordered to clear about 25 meters in width. Then they were instructed to build 15 meters in width and 3 meters in height embankment along the route.

 

While the villagers were building the embankment, they were also instructed to close all small streams. The small streams are wide about 14 to 20 meters and the villagers were also forced to find trees to make poles and made water walls and put earth in it. The construction of embankment and closing of all small streams lasted over three months and was started in August. So during August to October, 1998, even in rainy season, the villagers in the area were forced to continuously build the embankment. In this construction, at least about 300-400 villagers have been forced to work in the daily construction processes such as clearing the route, building embankment and closing streams.

 

Since October, the soldiers have instructed the villagers again to close the big streams and make tree pole walls. In this construction, the soldiers have used normally villagers from Legyi, Mintha and Kywe-tho-nyima village tracts. They also forced the villagers from these village tracts to find trees and brought tree poles to the construction site. Since November, 1998, the closing of big streams was started and it has taken time until the end of February, 1999.

 

There were three big streams along the route and they were "Wa-phae-chaung", "Kyauk-pate", and "Kuntheetaw", and were estimably 80 meters, 70 meters and 65 meters respectively wide. The villagers in the three village tracts were instructed to cut at least about 6-10 feet long 20 pieces of trees and brought it to the construction site. The gathering of the needed wood poles took nearly one month and when the water level was stable after rainy season, the soldiers forced the villagers to make pole walls and build embankment.

 

In this construction, only the troops from LIB No. 408 have taken responsibility in managing the works and conscripting labour from the villagers. Every month since the construction started, LIB No. 408 headquarters sent one column of troops to this construction to take security and to manage the construction, especially to share works to villagers and forced the villagers to contribute labour. The troops were changed every month, all troops have used the villagers inhumanely and the villagers always faced terrible situation in the work-site. Normally, many hundreds of villagers went to Hmaw-gyi village and stayed there until their work-duties were completed.

 

 

C. Construction of "Kywe-tho-nyima" Dike

 

Similarly, LIB No. 273's troops have also managed the construction and have forced the villagers from "Kywe-tho-nyima" village tracts constantly. This dike is situating on "Kwae-tho-nyima" island and northern side of that village. The embankment of this dike is long about 2,000 meters and it passes from east side to •west side of the island.

 

Normally, the villagers from 7 villages in the village tract have been conscripted as "forced labourers" in the construction site since September, 1998, by local troops of LIB No. 273. In September, the soldiers forced about 100 villagers from village tract and forced them to find the route and in October, the villagers had to clear the route of the embankment. Since October, soon after the clearance of the route, the villagers were instructed to start building the embankment again. Until the beginning of 1999, the forced conscription of labour for the construction have been continuous. LIB No. 273 also ordered the villagers to build embankment with 15 meters in width and 3 meters in height in the plain places and more higher embankment they have to build when the route passed valley area.

 

This dike closes two main and big streams to store water and these two streams are wide about 80 meters-and 100 meters respectively. Like other dikes, LIB No. 273 troops also ordered the villagers to cut trees and use it as poles in building water walls. The embankment that passing the streams were also built and the work-duties were shared to all villagers in the village tract.

 

The local commander has conscripted at least about 200-300 labourers in daily works in the construction site. The commander just gave instruction to the village tract leaders and the chairman issued the orders to every village in the village tract to send the needed number of villagers. In this village tract, many villages are not in island and most of them in the northern part of the island. After the villagers arrived to the construction site, they have to sleep in Kywe-tho-nyima and went to the construction every day until their one round work-duties were completed.

 

 

D. Construction of "Mintha" Dike

 

Following the instruction of another SPDC local battalion LIB No. 410, a dike with a shortest embankment has been built with unpaid forced labour near Mintha village. The embankment for this dike was long about 1,000 meters, it mainly closed ''Mintha" stream that flows close to Mintha village. By closing this stream, the soldiers could explore some farmlands near Mintha village and they could get enough water for the farm.

 

At the beginning of construction, the battalion already found the route of embankment and started conscripting the villagers from only Mintha village tract to contribute labour in all construction processes of this dike. The building of embankment was started in October, 1998, and most parts of embankment besides closing Mintha stream were built within one month period.

 

After the building of most parts of embankment, the soldiers continuously forced the villagers to close Mintha streams. The villagers had to cut trees and find hard-wood poles to make two water walls in stream and then were forced to fill earth between two walls to get a strong embankment that could prevent water flood and stored water in upside area. The closing of the stream and building of embankment was completed in January, 1999, according to villagers.

 

The soldiers have conscripted at least 100 villagers in daily construction of the dike. The villagers have to come from the villages nearby which are consisted of village tract and have to sleep in Mintha village. Normally, half of households in Mintha village were daily constricted by the soldiers and another half households have to send able-bodied men to another work-sites, such as in construction of "Singu" and "Hmaw-gyi" dikes. Similarly, although the construction of Mintha village was completed, the villagers in this tracts have still conscripted for another work-sites to contribute free labour.

 

 

The Work-duties in the Construction Sites

 

Before the construction started, the local commanders and village tract leaders already received the detail numbers of households and population of each village in every tract. Therefore, they could know how to share the work-duties to all village and depending on how large of dike to be built, the local military commanders and village tract leaders could decide how many pieces of works should they share to what village after their discussion. When the pieces of works were too much, like construction of "Singu" and "Hmaw-gyi" dikes, the battalion commanders who were taking responsibilities for the dike constructions decided to take villager labourers not only from one village tract that the dikes are situating but the villagers from another village tracts nearby.

 

Because of widespread condemnation against the tatmadaw for its use of forced labour in the whole country, the commanders are always avoiding the matters that they are directly ordering the rural village headmen to provide unpaid labourers to the construction sites. Normally, those commanders just give instruction to the concerned village tract leaders and let them issue the orders that instructing other villages in the tracts to send how many labourers or to complete how many pieces of works. (See the order and its translation)

 

Depending on the works in the construction, the sharing of work-duties to the conscripts are also different. In the dike processes, there were three different kinds of works to complete the whole construction of dike. Normally, the clearance of embankment route was the first work and the building of embankment and closing of streams were other works to complete the construction of dike. Considerably, the second and third works were more harder than the first work.

 

While the soldiers ordered the villagers to find the route of embankment and then to clear it, they used all villagers as a group and let them find the way and forced them to clear along the way. Or, for a long route of embankment, they also divided into many pans after they found and set the route, and let the villagers clear their own village responsible pan. Normally, the work-duties to villagers were shared for all villagers who came from the same village to clear same pans of route. Depending the households and population in a village, the pieces of works were shared directly to village headmen by military

commanders or by village tract leaders. Sometimes, the commanders or village tract leaders did not mention about the numbers of villagers they needed in

 

the construction, but described the pieces of works and the set time to complete the works to the respective village headman. So, the village headmen had to estimate the needed villagers to complete the set works within the set days. During the construction, the concerned village headman had to share pieces of works to his/her villager again. So the villagers who came from the same village could work together in the construction site and they could complete their village's pieces of "works.

 

 

 

The instruction order to construct the dike

 

Translation

(Burmese facsimile in original)

 

To

Chairman

Village Peace and Development Council

(Name of) Village

Date: 2 October 1998

 

SUBJECT: To construct Kywe-tho-nyima dyke

 

With regard to the above-mentioned matter, according to the instructions of LIB No. 273 battalion, your village is required to fulfil your quota of which is 1,293 Lan (= the length of the embankment extended) or 7,756 feet. Therefore, you are herein informed in advance that your village will begin do your quota from the 6th waning day of Thidingyut or 11 October 1998.

 

Remark: you must come and work on the set date without fail.

 

Signed (U Than Ye)

Chairman

Kywe-tho-nyima Village Tract PDC

 

 

 

When the battalion commanders conscripted the villagers to build the embankment, they also gave pieces of works with calculation of "Kyin" or instructed to complete some specific part of embankment. For the village headmen who were ordered to complete the construction, they had to share the work-duties to their villagers as normally defining how many kyins of earth they had to dig and fill it in embankment. According to villagers who have worked in Hmaw-gyi dike construction, they had to go and work in the work-site for at least one week during constructing the embankment and had to dig about 5 to 7 kyins of earth for embankment. In the valley area, because the villagers have to climb more higher embankment, the village

headman shared about 5 kyins pieces of works to one family of his/her village. In some places the villagers had to climb to the embankment about 10 meters. In the plain area, the villagers had to complete digging 7 kyins of earth and fill it to the embankment. As the military planned to create rice farm plots in one side of embankment, the villagers were instructed to dig earth only in the side in which they planned to store water.

 

Most hardest work in the dike construction was closing the streams. Whether the streams were large or small, the closing of streams was hard. Before the construction of pole walls in streams were started, the battalion commanders ordered village tract leaders to instruct the concerned villages to cut trees and send the needed poles to near streams. In October, 1998, when the local military battalions were hum' up to build pole walls to close three streams in Hmaw-gyi dike construction, the soldiers from LIB No. 408 also conscripted the villagers in Natkyisin village tract and forced many villagers to cut trees and send wall poles to Hmaw-gyi and Singu dike construction.

                        

After the wooden poles were ready in the concerned streams, the soldier forced all villagers to work in building water walls and then filled earth between the two walls to get a strong embankment in the streams. In some places, stream water was too deep and they could not complete the building of water walls. According to villagers, in February, 1999, there were some water walls remained to be built and because they could not complete building during rainy season and have to wait for until the water level was down and possible to build pole walls.

 

In building pole walls, the villagers had to immerse in the water for many hours and the authorities did not share any specific works for anyone to build these walls. They forced all men in the construction to go in water and put poles and in some places where the water level was deep, the villagers had to connect many poles to reach to ground. And they also had to hit the top of the poles to get more deeper in the ground. Considerably, these work-duties were also hard for the villagers.

 

Concerning to the work-duties in the construction-site, one village from Pyin-gyi also explained as below:

 

"Generally, our villagers have to work especially in Singu dike construction.    I was instructed by our village headman to work in this construction every month.   Depending on works, I have to stay in the work-site about one week or ten days or up to two weeks period to complete work-duties.     When the soldiers ordered the villagers to clear the route of dike embankment, our villagers were not ordered to work. I think, the nearest villagers were forced to find the route and clear the foliage and bushes.    When village headman instructed us to work in the construction, we were ordered by soldiers to build embankment.    We dug the earth and filled it in the route, and build embankment.     The embankment was. about 15 meters in width and 3 meters in height. After we fill earth, we also had to press and hit the back of embankment to be stronger.   Then, about 10 days later after we returned from Singu village, we were instructed to cut trees again.   Each family had to cut about 20 trees and these trees must be with at least 1 foot diameter and about 6 feet long.   I spent about five days to get all trees and another 5 days to send all trees to Singu.    Then, we were instructed again to close river, called "Mayan-chaung". At that time, many small streams were already closed by other villagers.    There were many villagers from many villages while we were building pole walls and embankment in Mayan river."

 

In conscripting the villagers, the nearest villages to construction site had to work more than other villages because the soldiers could come to their village easily and forced nearly all villagers to work in construction without waiting villager round instructed by headman.     For example, Hmaw-gyi and Kywe-tho-nyima villagers were suffered more from the construction of these dikes.    Sometimes, the soldiers based in their villages who have responsibility to manage for dike construction also arrested the villagers in the villages nearby, and forced them to work unceasingly until the set works were absolutely completed. In October, 1998, when the officials decided to build pole walls in Hmaw-gyi dike construction, the soldiers arrested all villagers in Sinswe village and forced them to work in construction, even though some returned from work-sites just recently.

 

 

Appalling Consequences in Construction-site

 

The villagers who were conscripted as labourers were not supported with foods, shelters and medical care by the local battalions or village tract leaders. Whenever the villagers went to construction sites, they had to bring their foods, tools and cash to buy other supplement foods such as vegetables, cooking oil, salt and others. For a villager who went to construction site for one week period, they have to bring about 8 kilograms of rice and 1,000 Kyat cash to buy other supplement foods. Since the villagers have been forced to work in various kinds of government infrastructure project sites, almost have no enough foods to bring along with them or no cash to buy other needed foods for survival. In any construction site, because of overcrowded population and lack of pure water, the villagers could not get pure water to make foods or use it as drinking water. Due to time limitation and no plan adopted by government officials, the villagers did not build any latrine in construction site and this situation also effected used water nearby. Facing food-shortage and water-shortage problems have been as common conditions in every construction site.

 

On the other hand, the working hours in almost construction site are approximately 10 hours per day. These not include the cooking hours. Normally, the villagers waked up about 4:00 a.m. early morning and made foods with fire-woods. Foods will be make for both breakfast and lunch meals. After they took breakfast, they went to the designated work-site about 7:00 a.m., and sometimes, they also had to walk from their temporary shelters to the construction site for half an hour. They also took foods for lunch along with them to construction site, because they had very limit time to return to their temporary shelters. In mid-day, the villagers had chance only one hour to take a rest or take lunch. Then, they left to the work-site again about 1:00 p.m. afternoon, and had to work there until the sun set and returned to temporary shelters. Regardless of rain or sun, the villagers always tried hard to complete their jobs within the set days. Soon they arrived to their shelters, they had to make foods for dinners with fire-woods and it took for one to two hours to complete. So they could take dinner about 9:00 p.m. and sleep about 10:00 p.m. The villagers had very few sleeping hours.

 

Even during rainy season, the villagers were conscripted in construction of Singu and Hmaw-gyi dikes. Since the villagers had to work in these construction one to two weeks in these construction, they have very little chance to work their own jobs. Normally, the villagers had to go designated work-site in hurry and soon after they reached to work-site, they had no time to build a proper shelters because the soldiers forced anyone who reached to the work-site to build embankment or pole walls as soon as possible. The villagers had to build very rough temporary shelters by roofing with banana leaves but no walls. These shelters could not protect rain in rainy season and cold snow during cold season, that takes from November to February in Burma.

 

All different kinds of work in the construction were normally hard enough if compared the villagers' own works in farms or other places. In some valley areas, when the villagers had to build high embankment, they had to make bamboo stretchers, put dirt in it and brought dirt to the top of embankment surface. While they were building the pole walls to close water from streams, the villagers had to stay for the whole day. And they also had to submerge in the water to hit the top of the poles or to make sure that the poles were put in order or not. Regardless of rain or hot sun, the villagers could not take any rest and had to work full time under bad weather conditions. The soldiers always guarded while the villagers were working. Some villagers were also hit or beaten when the soldiers dissatisfied on their working situation.

 

Because of shortage of foods and pure water, terrible weather conditions, hard-works and improper temporary shelters, many villagers have been very vulnerable to be suffered from various kind of diseases. During the construction, there were many women and children working instead of their husbands or fathers who had to work in farms and other day jobs to get income or foods for families' survival. Thus, majority of women and children in several work-sites have suffered from diarrhea, weakness, fever and other diseases during they were working in the construction site. However, the soldiers did not allow any sick patient to return without a substitute arrive and replace with him or her. The village headmen had to take responsibility to find substitute villagers to replace with the sick villagers. In addition, the soldiers did not give any medicines or treat these patients, and but the villagers had to help each other to buy medicines and treated the patients.

 

 

Other Mistreatments by Government Troops During the Construction

 

Traditionally, the villagers have been constantly conscripted as labourers by forces and the community leaders, especially, village headmen are always pressured  by local battalions' troops to send the exact number of labourers. Whenever the village leaders could not manage to send the exact number of villagers to worksite, they must be dismissed by soldiers and new leaders will be appointed to fulfill the requirement of local battalions. In many cases, the village headmen were very often beaten by the soldiers for their inability to manage and send villagers to the work-sites instructed their commanders. As an example, a village headman from Kya-khataw, Nai Win (42 years old) severely beaten by the soldiers from LIB No. 408 in the third week of September. When the commanders gave an order to manage and send villager labourers to Kywe-tho-nyima dike construction-site, he was away from village and

brought his sick sister to hospital. The commander angered to him and ordered his soldiers to beat him as a punishment. The soldiers beat him with jungle-boots, gun-butts and sticks for nearly half an hour and so he became conscienceless. His head was broken and his back was severely injured. They also hit his stomach with gun muzzles and so he got long-term inner injuries and he could not work any hard-work more.

 

Because of mistreatment against the village headmen, some also fled from their villages to NMSP, KNU and other rebel control area. And the soldiers appointed new headmen and let them manage to send villagers to construction. Considerably, the village headmen were always complicated to arrange and send the poor villagers to work-site, because many of them had their own jobs to work for survival. When they could not manage sending labourers, some village headmen fled from villages together with villagers who could not survive longer if they were in village. As an example, in second week of October, Chabon village headman, who had responsibility to send villagers to Kywe-tho-nyima dike construction, also fled with his villagers and then, the soldiers also appointed new headman and instructed him to continuously send the villagers to construction site. Similarly, the village headman in Paukpingwin village also fled from village in October, 1998, after he could not manage to send the villagers not only in dike construction sites but also to worksites for the repair of Ye-Tavoy railway.

 

Similarly, the villagers were often mistreated during they were working in construction site. The soldiers also guarded in the work-sites and whenever they met any dissatisfaction against villagers, those were always beaten. Verbal abuses, such as shouting and threatening was a normal abuse against the villagers. Sometimes, they kicked the villagers with jungle boots or gun-butts or hit with fists. In second week of November, 1998, while the soldiers ordered the villagers to close a stream in Kywe-tho-nyima dike construction, they also forced the villagers to submerge into water and hit the poles. While the villagers were submerging into water, the soldiers also dissatisfied on three villagers from Cha-taw village and beat them. One villager was severely beaten and the soldiers also his left eye. As a result, his left eye became blind.

 

On the other hand, although the villagers were sick in the work-sites, they could not stop and continuously had to work in the construction until the substitute villagers arrived to there. If they stopped working, they could be beaten. Additionally, when the villagers faced food-shortage problems, sometimes they also asked foods from soldiers. However, no food was supplied to villagers. In November, a group of Paukpingwin villagers faced food-shortage problems and they were not provided any food by soldiers. After two days facing food-shortage, they also fled from worksite at night time. The soldier also angered to them and tried to find them, also threatened they would kill if they met. But they could escape from arrest and killing.   Because of threat, the villagers did not dare to stay in village and fled to NMSP control area.

 

 

Constant Conscription of Forced Labour and Related Sufferings of Local  Community

 

During the construction these new dikes with purposes to explore many acres of rice farms for army, the local military battalions forced the villagers to serve various kinds of military services such as to be civilian porters to carry ammunitions and supplies along military operations, building barracks and etc.. At the same time, the villagers in these Ye and Yebyu townships areas were also forced to repair Ye-Tavoy railway, such as re-building embankment, laying stones and iron-rails on it and re-building bridges along the road. (See The Mon Forum, Issue No. 1/99, Report: The Conscription of Forced Labour on the Repair of Ye-Tavoy Railway Road)

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Following the constant conscription of forced labour in both dry and rainy seasons or nearly round the year, the local villagers have less time to work their own jobs to get income or crops. While the men went to rice-farms or plantations, the remaining family members, women, elder persons and children were required to work in dike and other constructions for the local government battalions. Sometimes, the villagers did not know exactly when the village headmen would come and instruct to go to construction sites, so only women, elder persons and children were and, soon the order came to go these construction sites, they could not wait for their husbands or fathers to come back and themselves went to construction sites. If not, they could be punished by soldiers, or the village headmen could be punished for his inability in managing to share work-duties to villagers.

 

Because of limited time to work their own jobs and received less and less income, the villagers, especially the poorest villagers in most villages, have faced

more and more difficulties for survival, if they stayed longer in their native. Thus, when many hundreds of villagers escaped from conscription of forced labour, they abandoned their native villages, houses and other belongings. Under this circumstance, the population displacement has been widely occurred in the whole Tavoy district, Tenasserim Division. During their displacement, many hundreds of villagers fled into forests while some numbers also stayed in their own rice-farms and fruit plantations. While they were displacing, they also lost general welfare that they received in the village and they hid in fear. They relied with foods or rice that they brought from their homes and forest products, but they could not get any supplement foods such as cooking oil, fish-paste, salt and etc. The villagers, especially children suffered from various kinds of diseases and weakness, but could not receive any medical treatment during they were displacing.

 

In the whole dry season, Burmese Army's several battalions also have launched military operation to attack other rebel groups, except NMSP which agreed for ceasefire with SPDC, to secure their infrastructure constructions and multinational investments which situate in Tavoy district. Due to these military operations, those displaced persons could not stay in a place and have to move from one place to another. Sometimes, when the military operation closed to them, they have to move more deeper inside forests and after the soldiers went away, they moved out again.

 

In opposite, some villagers also moved to urban areas to escape from forced labour and other abuses committed by government soldiers. They also joined with their relatives in towns and stayed there temporarily, and when the situation became better they would go back to their native village. Normally, such displaced persons moved to towns or big villages close to towns and they had no job and relied on their relatives in towns or those big villages.

 

Similarly, many of them also moved into returned Mon refugees resettlement camps which were established after the Mon refugees in Thailand were spontaneously repatriated in 1996 after NMSP agreed for ceasefire with SPDC. Those returned refugees decided to not go back to their native places because of human rights situation happened in the whole rural area of Burma. These refugees fled to the border area to escape from systematic persecution of government troops because of their ethnicity and displaced in Thailand for some years. After NMSP-SLORC ceasefire agreement in 1995, those refugees were suddenly repatriated due to Thai government's policy to not accept Burmese refugees longer in their soil. Since then, they have been displaced again in Mon resettlement camps in areas under the control of NMSP, and they have been well-informed about the situation in their native villages. At the same time, thousands of new arrivals have arrived to these camps and resided there as temporary shelters.

 

Until the end of February, 1999, the conscription of forced labour in Ye-Tavoy motor road, railway and dike construction is continuous and many hundreds of villagers have suffered from unceasingly use of forced labourers in these constructions. Not only the soldiers and local government authorities have forced the villagers to contribute labour in most government infrastructure projects, every local battalions also require frontline civilian porters in every military operation to carry ammunition and food supplies for soldiers and base's permanent porters to make foods and do other works in the respective battalion bases. Due to using of forced labour, the villagers have limited time during December and January to harvest their crops. Many villagers lost their crops during harvest season, because they have to go to the work-sites or to be porters for soldiers. In a very busiest situation, they have to work for military nearly three weeks in one month and there is less time to do their own jobs.

 

Generally, both local battalions' unkind treatment against local inhabitants because of their ethnicity and rebellion in the area. In addition, the government attempt to control the area and input of development infrastructure, have created unstable conditions for the local community to make a living in area, as a result. However, the suffering of these population in some part of Mon State and Tenasserim Division of lower Burma has been less care by the world and the humanitarian assistance or international protection for those populace is unreachable although the situation is worst.