News, Personal Accounts, Reports & Analysis on Human Rights Situation

In Mon Territory and Other Areas Southern Part of Burma

 

Electric Publication by

HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION OF MONLAND

mforum@np.anet.net.th

 

The Mon Forum

 

ISSUE NO. 11/2002; NOVEMBER 30, 2002; MONTHLY PUBLICATION

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CONTENTS

 

News:

 

(1)      SPDC troops shot into a Mon village, villagers got serious injuries,

(2)      Land confiscation in the southern part of Mudon Township,

 

Report:

 

(1)      Forced Labour Related to Development Projects and State Investment in Lower Part of Burma

 

 

Some acronyms in this issue:

 

SPDC:          State Peace and Development Council,

SLORC:       State Law and Order Restoration Council,

BA:              Burmese Army,

IB:                Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),

LIB:              Light Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),

KNU:            Karen National Union,

NMSP:         New Mon State Party,

NMLA:          Mon National Liberation Army

ILO:             International Labour Organization

 

 

COMMENTARY:

 

What is SPDC’s political will to eradicate forced labour

Since 1998 until 2002 with gradual steps International Labour Organization (ILO) have technically involved with the Burmese military regime, SPDC, to eradicate the practices of forced labour in the country accordingly to ILO’s Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No.29).  

However the implementation process by the regime and its armed force, Burmese Army or tatmadaw have been too slow.   SPDC has not have strong political will to eradicate forced labour in the country, because it is as a common practices for both authorities and army, and therefore, they would not like to abandon it.   On the other hand, forced labour or unpaid labour contribution by civilians make much profit to them. 

The measurement of SPDC’s political will could be make from its information dissemination of the eradication of forced labour in countrywide.   Just setting up posters and sticking Orders on the noticeboard are not so effective to illiterate and ethnic people in the rural area who are mostly suffered from forced labour for decades.  On the other hand, lack of law enforcement is another evidence that the regime has no strong desire to implement ILO’s instruction.  

If compared with government authorities, members of Burmese Army still requisition forced labour in various ways for their operation and troop deployment purposes.   Forced labour by the members of Burmese Army is requisitioned especially in portering for the military/paramilitary groups; construction or repairs of military camps/ facilities; income-genating projects (farms, industry projects); and national or local infrastructure project (railway or motor road) and many others. 

Therefore, it is a time for the regime to obligate its promise to eradicate all practices of forced labour in Burma, and need to analyze its ‘political will’.

 

 

NEWS:

 

SPDC Troops Shot into a Mon Villages, Villagers Got Serious Injuries

(Southern Part Ye Township, Mon State)

 

On November 16, a joint force of Burmese Army (SPDC’s armed force) shot into a Mon village, Khaw-za, in the southern part of Ye Township and three Mon villagers seriously injured.  

A joint force of Burmese Army consisted of LIB No. 273, LIB No. 282 and LIB No. 267, which mostly from Yebyu and Tavoy Township area, led Lt. Col. Myint Oo led and it had about 100 soldiers.  

On that day about 4:00 p.m., they arrived near village and shot into village with motor shells without notice because they suspected that that village must keep Mon rebel soldiers in the village.  However, the shells hit to three Mon villagers:

(1) Nai Dot, Male, 43 years;

(2)       Nai Shwe Hman, Male, 67 years; and

(3)       Mi Kun Prae, Female, 55 years.

But no one died and no shell hit to any rebel soldiers.   All three patients were brought to Ye Town hospital on the same day to have medical treatment in the hospital.

One Mon splinter group led by Nai Bin and Nai Hlein, has launched a military activity against Burmese Army in the southern part of Ye Township area.   Initially, the Burmese Army’s troops from Ye area LIB No. 343 and IB No. 61 launched military offensives against this rebel armed group, and they were seriously suffered in an ambush attack in October.   Therefore, Southeast Command that bases in Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, asked the above mentioned battalions even from Tenasserim Division to help taking security in southern part of Ye Township.  

Khaw-za village was big village with over 500 households, and the Burmese Army always suspected that village as a base of rebel soldiers.   As the troops came from Tenasserim Division, they did not have much knowledge about the activity of rebel soldiers and believed their enemies were in the village.  

Some villagers believed there would be a punishment to villagers, because the Burmese Army thought all villagers were the supporters of rebel group.

 

Land confiscation in southern part of Mudon Township

(November 2002)

With a purpose to build a Artillery Regiment in the southern part of Mudon Township, SPDC’s Southeast Command confiscated about 200 acres of lands from 49 Mon farmers suddenly on November 5, 2002.

Most lands were grown with some rubber trees and the farmers planted them for several years.   The owners of lands are Mon villagers from Set-thawe, Do-ma, Kalort-tort and Ah-bit villages, the army did not pay any compensation cost to those who lost their lands.  

Burmese Army also declared to village headmen in the area that as the location was strategic one, therefore, they needed to deploy artillery regiment.   Most rubber plantations were near a hill and while the Burmese Army planned to deploy their artillery guns and motors they took the hill.   However, to get support for foods and regular income, they also confiscated lands grown with rubber trees by the local farmers.

At the same time, some authorities from forestry department also lied other farmers that if they did not want to lose their lands to bribe them.  Therefore, some farmers went and bribed.   But many farmers did not pay and bribe, because they believed that even they paid to authorities of forestry department, the Burmese Army still could confiscate their lands any time.  

Since 2000, Burmese Army confiscated many thousands acres of land from Mon farmers in Ye Township to increase their troop number and deployed bases in there.   Later, they planned to confiscate lands in Mudon and Thanbyuzayat Townships this year 2002.  

 

REPORT:

 

Forced Labour Related to Development Projects and State Investment in Lower Part of Burma

 

I. Continuation of requisition of forced labour

Requisition or conscription of forced labour (compulsory labour) in Burma has been a continuous and inhumane practice that has committed by successive governments in Rangoon.    By referring to the laws adopted during British colonial era (1907), the successive Rangoon governments have applied to civilians to help the government authorities in some State service especially in war and in community development activities, such as road, bridge and dam construction.

In 1948 although Burma became a member of United Nations and State party of International Labour Convention, however, the successive governments have not abolished the laws that against international standard of labour rights.  Although even during BSPP era, the government and Burmese Army requisitioned many civilians to contribute their labour, however, it was not known to the international community well.   In 1988, after BSPP ended in power, the new blood of Burmese Army, State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) seized power of State from pro-democracy demonstrators.  

During SLORC era until it changed its name to the current one, SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) in 1997, SLORC authorities and Burmese Army had conscripted hundreds of thousands of civilians to contribute their labour in construction of various motor roads, railway roads and long bridges in various parts of Burma.   Initially, it was not known by international organizations for SLORC’s massive use of forced labour.   Since 1995, some local and international human rights organizations has started describing the violation of labour rights or use of slave labour that happened in modern days of Burma.   

However the use of compulsory labour by SLORC authorities was serious and the people in Burma faced a real ‘slave’ condition.   But they have no place or no opportunity to complain their suffering.  In 1997, International Labour Organization’s Commission of Inquiry has traveled around the borders of Burma and assessed the real situation of SLORC’s use of forced labour or how it used its civilians as ‘slave’.  

 

II. Role of ILO in protection of forced labour

After ILO’s Commission of Inquiry recommended about the Burma’s regime authorities and its troops of Burmese Army have violated the provisions of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). International Labour Convention in 1998 strongly asked Burma’s regime to prohibit all practices of forced labour used in various parts of Burma.   However, the regime had denied and complained the civilians contribute their labour ‘voluntarily’ and the allegation of requisition of forced labour was groundless.   ILO’s Governing Body strongly recommended that the use of forced labour was really exist in Burma and the Convention also planned to dismiss Burma, if the regime continuously refused to accept and follow the resolution made by members of ILO.  

Then, the regime accepted ILO’s Technical Cooperation Mission in 1999 to review judicial status on the constant use of forced labour and encourage to change or abolish some existing laws with objectives to prohibit in judicial measure first.   Commission of Inquiry also pointed out that because of Provisions of Village Act (1907) and Town Act (1907), which offered the authorities and army to have power to requisition labour at the villages and towns.   These laws were adopted since the British colonial era and ILO had requested Burma to abolish or amend them since over 30 years ago.    But the successive governments failed to amend or abolish these laws.  

ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendation also urged Burma to amend its laws that encouraged local authorities and army to halt practice requisition of forced labour.  Therefore, in May 1999, SPDC’s Ministry of Home Affairs issued an “Order Directing Not to Exercise Powers Under Certain Provisions of the Town Act, 1907 and Village Act, 1907”, which was also known as ‘Order No. 1/99.   This order just amend some laws in Town Act and Village Act, and order Town Ward and Village PDC authorities to stop use of the powers in the Acts (See the order in below at the end of this report).  However, it did not mention any fact about the members of armed force, Burmese Army, use of forced labour especially in porter service during their massive military offensives.   As Commission of Inquiry found most percentages of fored labour were used by members of armed force including police officers, the Committee of Experts pointed out that that order still remained incompatible with the requirements of the Convention.

Therefore, SPDC’s Ministry of Home Affairs again issued an “Order Supplementary Order No. 1/99” and modified Order No. 1/99.   In that order, it clearly put the responsible persons such as ‘members of the local authorities and members of the armed force’ to not requisition work or service in any situation except ‘an emergency arises due to fire, flood, storm, earthquake, epidemic disease, war, famine, and epizootic disease that poses an imminent danger to the general public and the community’ (See in the Order Supplementary Order No. 1/99 on page    ).

Following the technical assistance of ILO, the dissemination of these Orders were done by SPDC’s Ministry of Home Affairs to the regime’s local administration departments belonged to Township and Village Tract Peace and Development Councils and to all regiments and commands of armed force.   It also encouraged SPDC’s top administrative and law enforcement officials to sign ‘Prohibiting Requisition of Forced Labour’ and let them disseminate the Orders through all levels of administrative offices and police stations.   It also encouraged them to announce to general public through meeting in late 2000.   However the regime has failed to announce these orders via mass media.  

To assess whether SPDC and its all levels of authorities had practically implemented ‘prohibition of forced labour’ accordingly to the requirement of Conventions, Governing Body of ILO again sent a group of High-Level Team in September 2001.   In three weeks assessment throughout Burma, High-Level Team found that in the prohibition to the requisition of forced labour, it also needs to apply to prohibit all types of demand for money and materials despite of labour; dissemination of Orders’ information to non-Burman ethnic people in the frontier area has been not so effective; and law enforcement to give punishment to violators of Orders have not been really taken place in various courts in Burma.

Because of slow progress in elimination of forced labour in Burma, ILO considered to appoint a Liaison Officer in Rangoon, the capital of Burma, to assist technical assistance and closely monitor the situation of forced labour in Burma.  Therefore in May 2002, ILO appointed Mr. Leon de Riedmatten as the Interim Liaison Officer.   In early October 2002, ILO again replaced Ms Perret-Nguyen with a mandate to help SPDC to eradicate forced labour.  

In third week of October 2002, she commended that:

“We need to make some progress, to show some practical measures, before the next (ILO’s) Governing Body meeting in March 2003”. (From Myanmar Time)

 

III. Review the Past in Reality

There are some uncovered obstacles for ILO and the regimes in the implementation of eradication of forced labour.   The first one the ‘political will’ of the regime and another is ‘lack of rule of law’ in Burma. 

Since 1998, it has been nearly four years until now, the regime has given only ‘promise and promise’ to fight against forced labour.   In the views of worker unions and human rights groups over the world, the regime, SPDC, is not sincere to ILO and they really do not have strong political will in eradication of forced labour. 

Firstly, the regime and its authorities have not actively involved in the implementation and again, they increased the collection of money from the civilians after they could not get unpaid labour from the civilians like before.   In many cases, to say somethings to ILO officials that there was no forced labour, the authorities forced the civilians to sign in documents or to have their voices in tape-recording.  

After announcement of Order No. 1/99 and Order Supplementary Order No. 1/99, in 1999 and in late 2000, the authorities and army officers have avoided to openly requisition of labour from the civilians, but have used many indirect way of forcing the civilians.   While the authorities or army officers tried to conscript forced labour from the civilians, they just called a low profile meeting with village and village tract headmen and ordered through them.   They avoided issuing any document or paper order that described requisition of forced labour. 

Again, the regime authorities and army officers even used a term in Burmese word ‘that we still could use forced labour in a clever way’.   That meant the higher authorities or SPDC top leaders also knew the requisition of forced labour was not really implemented in township, village tract and village levels, but they normally blinded their eyes.  In the examination of the report of the High-Level Team in November 2001, ILO’s The Worker Vice-Chairperson pointed out that:

“What the report in fact showed was that not much had changed in Burma between 1998 and 2001.  This meant that widespread forced labour had persisted over the past three years and that army personnel and other people have been imposing forced labour on the fellow citizens over a long time.   It was the responsibility of the Government to bring those people before the courts of laws.”

The problem is also related to the ‘rule of law’ in the country.  Since the regime, SLORC/SPDC, came into power, because of abuse of power conducted by State authorities and members of armed force, Burmese Army, judicial system had been absolutely under the control of high rank army officials in the area concerned.  Whenever their subordinate army commanders committed against any laws, they always to protect their men.  That has taken root as a prominent practice among the ruling officials and no one have been punished for their violations. 

Even in the area where the absolute control of SPDC, the members of armed force or the regime authorities could violate any type of laws and human rights, and considerably, how they participated in violation of requisition of forced labour in rural areas, in their semi-controlled areas and conflict area.  

Therefore, in late 2002, the regime authorities and members of Burmese Army have constantly requisitioned forced labour in development ‘national and local infrastructure’ projects, State investments and for the military operations.  

As Part I of Forced Labour report, the following accounts are how SPDC’s various levels of authorities and members of Burmese Army have involved in requisition of forced labour related to development projects and investments.

 

IV. Forced labour in local infrastructure projects

A. Digging water canal in Kyamayaw Township, Mon State

During the period from July 5 until July 20, 2002, by the instruction of Township PDC authorities, the village tract Chairman of Tarana village tract, Nai Poe Sein, forced the villagers from four Mon villages: Tanara, Kyun-chaung; Kaw-gyi; and Kaw-swe villages, to do digging water canal along the motor road from Tarana to Ah-like village.  

The road was about four miles long and above-mentioned villages are close to the motor road.   After the instruction of village tract PDC order, the village headmen in the village concerned have to manage to send the requested number of villagers.   They sent about 20 villagers from each village every day to work sites.  The villagers were requisitioned by village PDC authorities on a rotation basis to contribute their unpaid labour.   There were about 80-120 villagers every day working in digging water canal.  

The villagers left to work early morning by foot and started working of digging canal along the motor road about 7:00 a.m.   Canal was about 3 foot in depth and 1.5 foot in width.  They carried their own tools from their homes to use in works.   They dug canals along the road in both sides and carried all earth from roads to nearer place.   They have to carry their own food to eat in work sites when these were far from their village.   Sometimes, when the work site was close to their villages, they could take lunch at home.  They could return their homes about 5:00 p.m.

These four Mon villages have about 2000 households.   When the authorities made a requisition, at least one family member of every household, including some women went and worked in work site.   As the instruction came every household needed to work, even the widow or women-headed families were forced to be in work sites.  

Additionally, the village authorities also collected 300 Kyat tax from every household in four villages with a reason for their expenses in the road construction.   Their reason of collecting that fund was to use travel expenses of their supervisors.  

July was the beginning of rainy season and the authorities worried that the rain water would destroy the embankment of the road, and therefore, they ordered the villagers to dig water canals to bring rain water along them.  

 

B. Labour of town beautification in Ye Town, Mon State

On July 7, 2002, Ye Township PDC authorities ordered 50 civilians from each town ward to contribute their labour in clearing bushes, water canals, small streams, pools and dikes in town.  The requisition of this labour continued for 7 days and all 10 town wards civilians had to go and work in there.  Everyday about 500 civilians in various parts of Ye Town were forced to do various types of beautification activities in town.  

The Town Ward PDC authorities managed in sending the civilians to do pieces of works in town.   Again they managed sending the civilians from every household on a rotation basis.  

In addition, the civilians were also forced in clearing bushes, creating gardens, leveling grounds, and other works in various compounds of government offices, such as Township’s General Administration Office, Township Police Station, Township Fire Brigade, Telecommunication Office and other places even Township Municipal Office.

To have an opportunity saying that they also involved in contributing unpaid labour in town beautification, a little number, about 20 men of staff from various departments did work together with many hundreds civilians.  The authorities in town that was not loke-ar-pay (forced labour) and all civilians including them involved in voluntary labour contribution for town beautification and outing mosquitoes and other insects to not raise in surrounding area of the town.  

However, Town residents did not satisfy to Township PDC authorities for that requisition of labour and they would not like to accept that was voluntary labour.  Because town residents paid money or tax to Township Municipal Office every month for the purpose of beautification of the town, but the municipal authorities not really hired the labourers to do beautification activities in town. 

Normally, in July, the rainy season already started and small grasses in various places had grown in town and various water canals were full with garbage, small streams could not flow well because it was full with dirt or garbage.   In reality, as the civilians already paid money for these activities, they believed Township PDC authorities should not requisition labour from the civilians.

 

C. Road repairs in Kyaikmayaw Township, Mon State

SPDC’s Kyamayaw Township’s authorities have built a road from Kyaikmayaw town to Kyun-ywa, a village in that township since early 2001.   Since then the authorities and Burmese Army had requisitioned many hundreds of villagers to contribute their labour.  However the road was just roughly built and did not really complete.  They forced the villagers to just fill some small pieces of stones and earth on the embankment.   During this road construction, the authorities collect fund from the civilians to buy gasoline for trucks to carry stones and other construction materials.   

Thus it could be easily ruin in every year rainy season and they planned to repair them.  Therefore, to prevent further ruin in coming rainy season, the authorities forced the villagers along the motor road to carry some small stones and filled on the embankment of that road. 

Since July 9, 2002, the authorities have forced the villagers from Myaing-gone, Chan-gone, Shan-gyi, Shan-lay, Moe-hote, Kaw-kalat, Oo-daing-chone and others to find one type of small red stones and let them filled on the embankment of the road.   The villagers had to find that type of stones in forests nearby.   They dug these stones and carried them with oxen-carts to reach the road.   Then they have to fill these small red stones onto embankment.  

The villagers had to work in these works for over one month and therefore, the village headmen from above-mentioned villages have to manage to send the villagers on a rotation basis.   Additionally, they also had to find oxen-carts in the villages and sent together with villagers.   Both villagers and oxen-carts went into forest and found the stones.  Then they carried them to road and again the villagers had to build the road. 

 

D. New road construction in Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division

In mid-July 2002, Yebyu Township authorities from the construction department led by U Maung Maung planned to build a new road that connect two villages, from Mu-doo village to Htein-gyi village, they also requisitioned the villagers from the area nearby to contribute their labour in the construction.   The road was only 5 miles.   But the authorities and Burmese Army planned to have communication between these villages for the security of the whole area.  

After Township PDC gave order, a military commander from LIB No. 407, Warrant Officer Zat Boe had to take responsibility in conscription of villagers from various villages in the area.  

On July 17, 2002, the commander went into Htein-gyi village and instructed to the village headmen that they needed labour for the construction.   In their initial plan, they would like to build the rough road by clearing some bushes along the route and filled some small stones.  

According to the commander, he ordered to the village headmen that each household must complete building of 10 feet length motor road.   There were about 500 households in that village and they ordered they must complete 5000 feet length of the road.   He ordered every household must involve in the construction of this road.   Similarly to this village, the commander also went to another villages, Napalae and Mu-doo, and forced the villagers to do the same piece of work as Htein-gyi villagers.  

Piece of work in the construction was: every house must complete clearing the route, lay sands at bottom layer, find stones from another places, crash into small pieces and then lay on the set embankment.   The width of embankment was about 12 feet. 

Accordingly to a villager interviewed by HURFOM human rights reporter, he said the villagers could not get any sand and stone that needed to lay on the road embankment and they went to other places.   Thus, they hired oxen-carts or trucks to carry these building materials to the construction.  They had to pay for transportation cost at rate 1200-3000 Kyat for an half ton of sand or stone.   Depending on the distances, the price for transport of these materials varied.    

For every 10 feet of road, each household had to fill about half ton of sands and two tons of stones.  When the stones reached to the designated places, they also had to crash into small pieces before they laid them onto embankment.   To complete the whole piece of work, one able-bodied man needed to do at least three days.  If the villagers had to carry stones from far places, they needed about seven days to complete the construction.  

On the other hand, each family had to spend 5000-10000 Kyat money in this road construction and at the same time, they lost chance to go their farms or to do their own works for daily income.   Their daily income for one man in this area was only 500-800 Kyat if they engaged in hard work.   This construction of the road and additional transportation cost made the villagers to face more difficulties in their survival. 

 

E. Forced labour in Ye-Tavoy motor road repairs

Starting from October 8 until 25, a local military battalion in Yebyu Towship, LIB No. 282 has forced many hundreds of Mon and Karen people in Ye-Tavoy motor road repairs.  

This motor road is over 100 miles long and connects Ye Town in Mon State and Tavoy town in Tenasserim Division.  The road repairs was done after rainy season (rainy season ends in September), because flood and rain water destroyed some parts of the road and water canals alongside of the road were also full with mud.  

LIB No. 282 commander, Lt. Col. Maung Aung led in the conscription of forced labour from local villages, which situates along the motor road.   The villagers from over 15 villages under Yapu, Aleskan, Kalein-aung and Pauk-pin-gwin village tracts of Yebyu Township were forced in the road repairs. 

The conscripts were forced in works laying stones (to be ready for tarring), digging water canals alongside of the road, clearing bushes and grasses alongside of the road and repairing some bridges.  

Villagers were instructed to carry their own foods from their homes and walked to work site every day if they were close.  By the instruction of the army commander, the village headmen asked one villager from each household to contribute their unpaid labour.    Piece of work for the villagers is: 3 villagers must complete all works laying stones; digging canals; and clearing grasses and bushes in 1 furlong length of the road.  

According to a villager from Aleskan village, they were ordered to work for 7 days in the work site to complete the duty.  If the work site was far from their villages, the villagers also had to travel by ferry to reach there.  They also had to pay ferry cost, 700-1400 Kyat depending on distance from their villages to work sites.   As they have to work for many days they also slept in army barracks at night.

In some houses, if men were working in farms, the women and children (under 18 years old) had to go instead of their fathers.  If one house could not go, they had to hire a substitute by paying 5000 Kyat for the whole work duty or for 7 days works.  

The village headmen managed on a rotation basis in sending the villager labourers to work site.  If they failed to manage they must be punished by Burmese Army.   At least one member of every family had to work in the work site.   The road repairs completed on October 25.

During the repairs of this motor road, the village PDC authorities, who led the requisition of forced labour never paid any compensation cost for those who received serious injury.  

As an instance,

On October 20, the village headmen of Kye-ta-lin village, which locates on the motor road, ordered 4 villagers in his village to repair a bridge on the motor road, while many other villagers were busy with many other works along the motor road.   When the headman ordered 4 households and he also included one widow headed family and so the widow sent her 22 years old son, Mehm Anae to work in bridge building.

Before they could repair a bridge, first they had to find building wooden materials, especially wooden poles and lumbers.   And so, they went to forests and cut trees.   Because of the young man had no experience in cutting trees, a branch of falling tree accidentally hit the man and his rights leg was totally broken.   Then he was treated by a local herbal doctor for over one month and her poor mother had to pay about 50, 000 Kyat totally for treatment.   But no compensation or medical treatment cost was not provided by the authorities.

 

V. Forced labour in State investment (or in Kanbauk-Myaingkalay Gas-Pipeline)

Since 1999-2000, SPDC authorities, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises (MOGE) and Ministry of Construction, had built a gas-pipeline that connected Kanbauk gas station and Myaingkalay, a village in Pa-an Township of Karen State (See in the map).   The purpose of construction of this pipeline was to supply necessary gas energy to an extent cement factory invested by a Japanese company.   SPDC exported a large amount of cement from this factory to Japan, accordingly to contract. 

Due to urgent requirement of gas energy, the authorities constructed this pipeline within three months during 2000.   And, they could bring energy to the factory in 2001.   Because of quick construction and no reliable construction materials, the gas pipeline often exploded and crated dangerous situation for the local people.  

As Burmese Army could not take total security along pipeline route, it was also exploded by rebel army in early 2002 and SPDC suspected KNLA for that explosion.   The local SPDC authorities and Burmese Army in the area concerned have great concern for another attack and they tried to protect pipeline as much as possible.   Since early May 2002, the authorities and army battalions in various areas had forced the villagers from villages which located close to pipeline to guard it.   First the authorities and army forced the villagers to build huts in every 500 meters along  (See in The Mon Forum Issue No. 7/2002, July 31, 2002) and then forced the villagers to guard the pipeline 24 hours.   The village headmen from the villages nearby had to manage in sending the villager guards on a rotation basis.

The following accounts are the conditions of the requisition of forced labour by authorities and army commanders along Kanbauk-Myaingkalay gas pipeline during the period from July to November 2002.  

Instance (1)

On July 29, 2002, Burmese Army’s LIB No. 31 commander, Maj. Lu Aye called a meeting with headmen from 30 villages in the southern part of Mudon Township and most villages in Thanbyuzayat Township, in their base in Thanbyuzayat Town.   The purpose of the meeting was to discuss about the security of gas pipeline.   Most village headmen in the meeting came from the villages that closed and situated along gas pipeline route.  

In the meeting, the commander expressed his concern that about the possible attack to gas pipeline.   He explained that if the pipeline was attacked and cut in one place, gas could not be possible brought and the cement factory would face shortage of energy supply.   Therefore, the State must lose its huge amount of income from selling cement products.  So, he said that the civilians have responsibility to help the authorities and army to guard pipeline as ‘good citizens’.  

He instructed the village headmen to inform paddy cultivated farmers that they had responsibility to guard pipeline and if they found some strangers or suspected rebel soldiers in any area or strange things near pipeline, they must need to inform to village headmen.   Then, the headmen needed to inform the nearest military outpost.  He said that if they delayed to inform or if the gas pipeline was exploded near their farms, those farmers must face punishment.  

Because of this order, the farmers in the area automatically became the guards of the pipeline, although the commander did not have to issue any written order. 

By looking the above instance, the authorities or army commander always tried to avoid issuing direct order to villagers in the requisition of forced labour.   They tried to cover their requisition as much as possible and thus, they called a meeting secretly with village headmen and instructed through meeting.   The most careful thing they did was they never issued any identical evidence of documents or orders related to the requisition of forced labour. 

But in some places, where the locations were too vulnerable to be attacked by the rebel soldiers, the commanders conscripted forced labour for such locations.   They directly ordered village headmen nearby and let them manage to send villagers on a regular basis.  

Instance (2)

About 10 kilometers in the southern part of Thanbyuzayat Town, there is one place where the rebel soldiers used to pass motor road and could make attack to gas pipeline.   The place was also far from the bases of Burmese Army.  Therefore the commander of IB No. 31 from Thanbyuzayat Town ordered the village headmen to some villages that closed to pipeline to send two men every day to walk back and forth along the pipeline. 

Those walking villagers needed to watch the strangers or rebel soldiers and explosive substances along the route, and if they found something wrong, they must have to inform to the nearest military outpost or the militia force.   Sometimes, the troops of Burmese Army arrived to the area, but most of the time, the villagers have to take responsibility for the security of pipeline.  

The villagers from Sakan, Sot-palaung and Wae-ka-mi villages were forced since May 2002 to walk along the pipeline route.   Each village had to provide two villagers and they were provided with some duty to walk in the set place.   When the villagers were forced along the pipeline route, they were also ordered to bring knives.   If they found the suspected they also had to dig with their knives.   So it was too dangerous duty for the villagers. 

Sometimes, when the troops of Burmese Army planned to cover the news for their requisition of forced labour, they also conscripted the villagers in the evening and night time to do work.  While they conscripted the labour from the villagers or headmen, they suddenly called a meeting with village headmen and then ordered them to send some villagers urgently.   Normally, they conscripted labour in large number within one day and tried to complete all of the works they set along the gas pipeline route.  

Instance (3)

After rainy season (in October 2002) some parts gas pipeline embankment were destroyed because of rain and water flood.   Some parts of pipeline exposed although the pipeline was immersed under earth.  Or, in some places due to grasses and small trees grown last rainy season the pipeline covered with these bushes and the army ordered the villagers to clear all grasses and small trees.   Because the covered pipeline route could be vulnerable to be demolished.  

In the third week of October 2002, the Burmese Army’s joint force LIB No. 586 and IB No. 61, that base in the northeast part of Ye Township forced the villagers from Kyone-paw and Sin-gyi villages to contribute their labour, in various works along pipeline route.   The soldiers ordered one village from each house must go and work. 

Accordingly to a woman from Sin-gyi village, who worked in the pipeline said that the whole villagers were forced to start working from 2:00 p.m. in the evening time until 2:00 a.m over mid-night.    It was 4 hours in daytime and 8 hours at nighttime to complete their work-duty.   On the next day, they forced villagers from Kyone-paw village and let them work in the same evening and nighttime.  

As most villagers thought the work would be stopped working at 6:00 p.m. and they could have dinner, but the soldiers ordered them to work continuously.   All villagers did not have chance to take dinner in the first day.   But on the next day, the villagers from other villages heard about this news and they brought their own food together with them. 

The works in the gas pipeline route were: to cover the pipeline route with earth and to clear small grasses and trees along the route.   In a designated part of pipeline route, they had to find which parts of pipeline’s embankment were tided by flood and then they had to fill them with earth.   Again, outside of pipeline route, they had to clear grasses and bushes, because the soldiers believed that the rebels could easily hide in those places and make attack to gas pipeline.  

Accordingly to a village headman from the area, besides a huge number of villagers were forced for a few days, little number of villagers were also forced to guard on a regular basis.   At least two villagers from each of above villages have been constantly forced to guard the pipeline route.  

Since the construction of gas pipeline, first the civilians along the pipeline lost their lands.   Then they have been constantly suffered from various impacts on their livelihood because the pipeline passes through into their paddy growing farms.   Since the beginning of construction until now, the civilians have suffered from the constant conscription of forced labour.   In most cases of requisition of forced labour, various battalions of Burmese Army have involved.   

---------------------

 

Order Supplementing Order No. 1/99

The Government of the Union of Myanmar,

The Ministry of Home Affairs,

Yangon, Ist Waxing of Tazaungmon 1362, M.E.

(27 October 2000)

 

Order supplementing Order No. 1/99

The Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of the Union of Myanmar, under the direction of the State Peace and Development Council, hereby directs that the following amendment shall be made to Order No. 1/99 dated 14 May 1999 as requisition of forced labour is illegal and is an offence under the existing laws of the Union of Myanmar.

 

1.      Clauss 5 of the said Order 1/99 shall be substituted with the following;

 

(a)    Responsible persons including members of the local authorities, members of the armed forces, members of the police force, and public service personnel shall not requisition work or service notwithstanding anything contained in sections 7 (1) and 9 (b) of the Towns Act, 1907, and sections 8(1) and 11(d) of the Village Act, 1907.

 

(b)    The above clause (a) shall not apply to the requisition of work or service when an emergency arises due to fire, flood, storm, earthquake, epidemic disease, war, famine and epizootic disease that poses an imminent danger to the general public and the community.

 

2.      When the responsible persons have to requisition work or serivce for purposes mentioned in clause 1(b) of this Supplementary Order the following shall be complied;

 

(a)    The work or service shall not lay too heavy a burden upon the present population of the region.

(b)    The work or service shall not entail the removal of workers from their place of habitual residence.

(c)     The work or service shall be important and of direct interest for the community. It shall not be for the benefit of private individuals, companies or associations.

(d)    It shall be in circumstances where it is impossible to obtain labou by the ofter of usual rates of wages. In such circumstances, the people of the area who are participating shall be paid rates of wages not less favourable than those prevailing in the area.

(e)    schoolteachers and pupils shall be exempted from requisition of work or service.

(f)      In the case of adult able-bodied men who are the main supporters of the necessition food, clothing and shelter for the family and indispensable for social life, requisition shall not be made  except only in unavoidable circumstances.

(g)    The work or service shall be carried out during the normal working hours. The hours worked in excess of the normal working hours shall be remunerated at prevailing overtime rates.

(h)    In cass of accident, sickness or disability arising at the place of work, benefits shall be granted in accordance with the Workmen’s Compensation Act.

(i)      The work or service shall not be used for work underground in mines.

 

3.      When the responsible persons have to requisition work or service for purposes mentioned in clause 1(b) of this Supplementary Order, they shall do so only with the permission of the Deputy Commissioner of the General Administration Department who is also a member of the relevant District Peace and Development Council.

 

4.      The State or Divisional Commissioner of the General Admenistration Department who is also a member of the relevant State or Divisional Peace and Development Council shall supervise the responsible to abide by the Order No. 1/99 and this Supplementary Order.

 

5.      The phrase ‘’Any person who fails to abide by this Order shall have action taken against him under the existing law” contained in clause 6 of the said Order No. 1/99 means that any person including local autorities, members of the armed forces, members of the police force and other public service personnel shall have action taken against him under section 374 of the Penal Code or any other existing law.

 

(Signed) Col. Tin Hlaing,

Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs

dsfsHods

 

 

 

Information about Human Rights Foundation of Monland

&

Invitation for feedback from readers

 

Dear Readers,

Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) was founded in 1995, by a group of young Mon people.   The main objectives of HURFOM are:

- 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,

In order to implement these objectives, HURFOM has produced “The Mon Forum” newsletters monthly and sometimes it has been delayed because we wait to confirm some information.  We apologize for the delay.

However, we also invite your feedbacks on the information we described in each newsletter and if you know anyone who would like to receive the newsletter, please send name and address to our address or e-mail as below:

HURFOM, P. O. Box 11, Ratchburana P. O.

Bangkok 10140, THAILAND

E-mail: mforum@np.anet.net.th

Website:  http://www.burmalibrary.org/show.php?cat=1208&lo=d&sl=0

With regards,

Director

Human Rights Foundation of Monland