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

in Mon Territory and Other Areas Southern Part of Burma

The Mon Forum

Issue No. 12/2002 December 31, 2002

 

The Publication of Human Rights Foundation of Monland (BURMA)

 

 

Contents

News:

(1) Torture against village headmen with suspicion of rebel supporters

(2) Land confiscation for shrimp farms

(3) Moulmein City's Farmers are forced to sell their paddy

Report:

(1) Constant conscription of forced labour by members of Burmese Army

 

Some Acronyms in This Issue

SPDC- State Peace arid Development Council,

SLORC - State Law and Order Restoration Council,

IB Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),

LID Light Infantry Division (of Burmese Army),

LIB Light Infantry Battalion (of Burmese Army),

KNLA - Karen National Liberation Army,

NMSP New Mon State Party,

MOMC - Military Operational Management Command

MNLA- Mon National Liberation Army,

ILO - International Labour Organization,

DKBA- Democratic Karen Buddhist Army

 

 

News

 

Torture against village headmen with suspicion of rebel-supporters

(Ye Township, Mon State)

 

On December 29, 2002, two village headmen from The-khone village in southern part of Ye Township were tortured by the soldiers, after they were arrested by Burmese Army's IB No. 61 led by Maj. Tin Aung Khaing.

 

Two Mon village headmen, Nai Kyaw and Nai Ong Myint, were arrested by the commander and soldiers of IB No. 61 while they were drinking coffee in a shop in Ywa-thit village. They planned to travel to Ye Town and drank coffee in that village.

 

Because of misinformation received by IB No. 61 commander, they arrested these two village headmen with a suspicion of rebel supporters. IB No. 61 heard a news that Mon rebel group led by Nai Bin went into Ywa-thit village and planned to collect money from villagers.

 

However, the rebel soldiers did not come into that village. But when the Burmese soldiers went into that village, they found Nai Ong Myint, who wore army trouser and another village headmen Nai Kyaw. The Burmese soldiers accused that Nai Ong Myint and Nai Kyaw were Mon soldiers and they suddenly arrested them.

 

After arrest, although the headmen said they planned to go Ye Town and were village headmen of The-khone, a fishing village nearby, but the Burmese soldiers did not believe and tied them up. They closed the men's eyes with clothes and brought them to Ye Town.

 

They detained them in the battalion detention center and the soldiers tortured them to admit whether they were Mon soldiers or the supporters of Mon rebels. The soldiers beat them mostly in face and other parts of their body. During interrogation, when the headmen refused, they were severely beaten.

When their families arrived to the detention center to explain they were not rebel soldiers, they found both men were seriously beaten. Their faces and some body parts had injuries.

 

The families of those headmen discussed with the commander for the release of the men. Maj. Tin Aung Khaing agreed and said if they could pay 500, 000 Kyat for each of them, they must release them. The men's families also returned to their homes and tried to collect 1 million Kyat to pay fine to commander.

 

After they collected money, they also paid to commander and then he released two men. But they were brought to Ye town hospital for a few day treatment.

 

IB No. 61 bases in Ye Town and it has also launched a military operation in southern part of Ye Township area, where the Mon rebel group led by Nai Bin has launched military activities against Burmese Army. Burmese Army's Southeast Command has used various battalions to uproot the activities of Mon rebel soldiers.

 

This Mon rebel group, which has no political name, has launched the offensives against Burmese Army since late 1997 and they often launch ambush attack against Burmese Army with guerrilla tactics.

 

 

Land confiscation for shrimp farms

 

(Mudon Township, Mon State)

 

In late December 2002, Burmese Army's IB No. 210 bases in Mudon Township confiscate 64 acres of lands belonged to Mon farmers to create shrimp farms and grow paddy under the battalion's 'self-reliance' program.

 

The confiscated lands situate in southern part of Mudon Township and they are in western part of Moulmein - Ye railway road. The lands are belonged to 9 Mon farmer families from Yaung-daung and Kwan-hlar villages.

 

Since October before the farmers reaped their crops, the Burmese Army and Township came and informed to village headmen that they would inform these lands after harvest. The authorities went to these farms and measures the lands. However the authorities did not inform to farmers that they would confiscate their lands.

 

The farmers regularly have given tax for their lands every year and also sold their paddy every year to the government set paddy-buying center.

However, the army and authorities selected the best lands in the area without acknowledgment and took them for their own business. Accordingly the

plan of IB No. 210, they would dig several pools to create shrimp farms and also grows paddy in the remaining lands.

 

The farmers who lost the lands and amount of lands are: Nai Aunt Yein (8 acres), Nai Lun Aung (5 acres), Mi Own Kyi (12 acres), Mi Shwe Uu (6 acres), Nai Maung Kyi (1.5 acres), Nai San Hlaing (3 acres), Nai Pan Taung (5. 5 acres), Nai Dout (10. 5 acres) and Nai Tun Shinn (3 acres).

 

Why IB No. 210 creates shrimp farms? Lower part of Burma exports many tons of shrimps every year to Thailand with an expensive price and it is good price for fishermen. Some farmers also sold shrimps that they raise naturally in paddy farms. However, the demand for shrimp export from the southern part of Burma to Thailand has increased and many army battalions especially in Ye Township, have created many shrimp farms in Mon State.

 

There have been more land confiscation in Mudon Township for the purposes of new troop deployment and creation of shrimp farms.

 

Currently Township authorities in Mon State, also declared to farmers in many areas that if they could not longer work in farms and could not sell the full amount of paddy to the government set paddy-buying center, they must give their lands to authorities. In 2002, because of flood during rainy season, many farmers lost their crops and disappointed to work because they government authorities again forced them to sell their paddy at low price to their set paddy-buying center.

 

 

Moulmein City's Farmers are forced to sell their paddy

 

(Moulmein. Mon State)

 

In an order issued on December 12, 2002, a City Ward Chairman forced the farmers in his ward to sell their paddy to complete their duty.

The order described that there were 63 farmers in Shwe Myaing Thiri ward of Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, and no farmer has sold their paddy to the paddy buying center until December 10. The authorities set the paddy-buying centers in many wards in Moulmein and forced the farmers to sell their paddy at low price, 350 Kyat per basket. This price is about 5 times less than market price.

 

The authorities planned to buy about 4490 baskets from those 63 farmers in Ward and already ordered them in November before their harvest. According to instruction, the farmers are required to sell their paddy to the regime set paddy-buying centers first soon after their harvest. 'Selling the complete requested amount of paddy by farmers is meant that that farmer complete the (State) duty.

 

In the order, the authorities allowed 13 days to farmers to completer their duty. It described 'the farmers in Shwe Myaing Thiri must complete selling their paddy without failure.' It also means if they failed to sell they must be taken into courts.

 

The authorities requested farmers to sell about 15 baskets of paddy from one acre of their lands. This amount is nearly a half or over 30% of their produced amount of paddy from one acre. In reality, no farmer wishes to sell their paddy like this low price while the market price for one basket of paddy is about 1500 Kyat.

 

SPDC'S Agriculture Products Trading Department' has mainly taken responsibility in buying rice. The purposes of buying rice at low price are: to distribute rice free of charge to government servants and soldiers; and to export to foreign countries for profit.

 

 

Report

Constant conscription of forced labour by members of Burmese Army

I. The continuous use of forced labour by Burmese Army

In the Order No. 1/99, although SPDC's Ministry of Home Affairs did not mention for the requisition of forced labour by members of Burmese Army (Tatmadaw) but in its supplementing Order of Order No. 1/ 99, it clearly mentioned 'members of Burmese Army' must cease all practices of forced labour.

That means the members of Burmese Army must stop the requisition of forced labour in their military purposes and self-reliance activities, using civilians as unpaid labour.

 

Although members of Burmese Army in cities or towns do not use the civilians as unpaid labour, however the battalions in the rural areas have constantly forced the civilians in the southern part of Burma. There are many evidences of Burmese Army's requisition of forced labour in rural area to where ILO could not get access.

 

Requisition of forced labour by members of Burmese Army always related to their military operation against the military offensives. The Burmese Army still operates their military offensives in eastern and southern part of Burma, where the various ethnic rebel forces have operated their military activities. In these offensives, members of Burmese Army arrested the civilians in the rural villages and used them as porters in their logistics.

 

In some cases, some battalions tried to avoid using porters, however, they collected porter fees. Some corrupted army commander preferred to collect porter fees from civilians in towns or villages, because they could take extra money after they paid to porters as hired cost. In ILO's Committee of Experts also pointed out in its 2001 Report that the collection of fund instead of requisition of forced labour must be illegal. In the word of Committee Experts in the guidance to amend the legislation of SPDC related to the requisition of forced labour, they mentioned:

 

"To the requisition of materials or provisions of any kind to demands of money where due to the State or to a municipal or town committee under relevant legislation. Furthermore, the suggested text was to provide that if any state authority or its officers requires labour, services, materials or provisions of any kind for any purpose, they must make prior budgetary arrangements to obtain these by a public tender process or by providing market rates to persons wishing to supply these service, materials or provisions voluntarily, or wishing to offer their labour".

 

Additionally, on the other hand, in the small scales of development in the rural areas such as construction of road, bridge and clearance of road, the members of Burmese Army also have used the rural civilians to contribute their labour without any a public tender process or without payment to those labourers. All these small development projects always support to the activities of Burmese Army in terms of communication and security. In most military battalions in the rural areas have their own plantations or paddy fields for the income generating program for every battalion.

 

The local civilians are constantly and always forced by the local military commanders in the bases concerned to do daily works in the military bases. In the rural areas, where the Burmese Army is taking bases, they always need the help of the civilians to do the daily work in their bases. Daily works in the bases of Burmese Army are: to find and cut fire-woods, to cook foods for the soldiers, to carry water and to grow vegetables and other activities.

 

Although Order Supplementing Order No. 1/99 instructed to members of Burmese Army to halt their conscription of forced labour for any purpose, only their members in towns and cities stopped, but most of their troops in the rural still continuously used the civilians without any payment or providing any food for them.

 

The following information are: the accounts of the requisition of forced labour by members of Burmese Army during the military operations (as porters), in the development or self-help projects and as workers in their battalion base to do their daily work.

 

 

II. Porter Service for Burmese Army

 

KYA1KMAYAW TOWNSHIP

 

The Burmese Army's troops moved in various part of Karen State, because KNLA troops also launched various military operations against the Burmese Army. In various townships in Karen State, the Burmese Army launched more offensives in eastern part Township area, where their borders connect with Thailand.

 

Among many Townships, Kya-inn-seikyi Township has a largest area and KNLA troops could launch more military activities, and the Burmese Army's troops re-launch more military offensives against that rebel group. The Burmese Army sent at least five military columns (one column is about 60-100 troops) into this Township area and let them uproot the activities of the rebels.

 

In every case of the military offensives, the soldiers of Burmese Army always arrested the civilians in the rural area whether in villages or outside of the villages, and they used them as porters. Depending on their treatments to villagers, some villagers from some villages escaped from their villages before the Burmese Army arrived into their villages. For those types of villages, the Burmese Army always accused that the villagers were the supporters of rebel-soldiers and the Burmese soldiers suddenly went into villages and then arrested all men when they found them.

 

In some villages, which are not so far from the battalion bases or their outpost, the village headmen have to agree to provide porters for soldiers on a regular basis. They always have to prepare to inform some villagers especially men to remain in the village and when the army come, they have to go with them as porters.

 

Sometimes, when a military column of Burmese Army planned to launch the military offensives in the area, they informed to many villages to provide them with some porters. They needed many porters from 20 to 100 porters and informed the village headmen to collect these number of porters for the troops. They bring these porters for many days to carry food supply, ammunitions, motor shells and looted properties along with their troops. In some cases, the battalion commanders took permanent porters and let those villager porters stayed in their battalion base. When they needed to launch the military operations, they took those porters and then, sometimes when they have no purpose for the military operation, they let those porters do the works in their own battalion bases.

 

As an instance,

In June 2001, LIB No. 538 led by Col. Ne Win Myint ordered the village headmen from Taung-dee village to provide the battalion with 15 porters everyday to their base. The villagers went there by walking and needed to stay for the whole day. When the army have purpose to operate the military operations, they took those villagers along with them as porters. If not, they forced those villagers to work in the battalion.

 

When the villagers are taken by soldiers, they have to carry food supplies, ammunitions and motor shells at least one day. Sometimes, the army launched the military patrol, they were taken over 5 days with soldiers. For the village headmen, he needed to provide 15 villagers everyday whether the army launched patrol/ operation or not. If the village headmen failed to provide the villager porters, they would be punished accordingly to a village headman from that village.

 

The conscription of porters by a military battalion has been constantly committed by an army battalion and they forced the villagers not only from village, but from many other villages.

 

Even in the rainy season from June to September 2002, LIB No.538 that bases near Kha-won village in Kya-inn-seikyi Township, Karen State continuously conscripted the villagers from Taung-dee village to do porter service. In early August 2002, the battalion requested 13 villagers for 7 days to help work in their battalion base or used them as porters and replaced them with another villagers after 7 days.

 

In third and last weeks of August, 2002, they moved to another village, Pha-pya, in the area and asked about 13 porters from the village to use them for 7 days. On August 18, there was also a fighting happened between that battalion and KNLA troops. Some soldiers got injuries, but no porter was killed or injured. On the same day, the soldiers went into Kha-won village and arrested 18 villagers and forced them to carry their injured soldiers.

 

In most cases, whenever the army arrived into a village, they always forced the village headmen to provide them with some porters. Normally, in most villages the men are outside of the village because they were busy with their own works in farms or fishing. Anyhow, the headmen have to organize to provide them with porters.

 

In Kya-inn-seikyi Township, there are various ethnic people, Mon, Karen, Burman and Lao-shan (an ethnic close to Thai people), living in there and when the soldiers from Burmese Army made arrest to use them as porters, they arrested all regardless of ethnicity.

 

As an instance,

On June 24, 2002, when the troops of Burmese Army from the command of LIB No. 22, went into Nong-ta-koe village, they arrested all Lao-shan men in there to use them as porters during their military. Lao-shan people is a minority ethnic people and they never involved in fighting against Burmese Army, but also never supported to KNLA activities.

 

In Mon State, the Burmese Army have more military activities in Ye Township area and many military battalions used villagers as porters like in Kya-inn-seikyi Township of Karen State, to carry ammunitions and food supply. Under the command of MOMC No. 19, there are about 10 military battalions and some battalions have regularly launched offensives against KNLA troops in the northeastern part of Ye Township. During these offensives, the Burmese Army arrested the Mon and Karen ethnic villagers in villages or forests or farms and fruit plantations and then forced them to carry ammunitions and food supplies for army.

 

As an instance,

In mid-July 2002, when LIB No. 588, which is under the command of MOMC No. 19, launched military offensives in eastern part of Ye Township, they also arrested some villagers who they found in forests, plantations and even in small remote villages. They forced these villagers to carry ammunitions for them and moved to mountainous area to find KNLA soldiers. On July 13, there was a fighting between KNLA and Burmese Army. After three days continuous fighting, the Burmese Army's troops retreated back from incident places and some porters also escaped. They found less men to carry supplies, ammunitions and injured men and then they tried to get more porters. Then on July 16, 2002, they suddenly moved into Kaloke-toke and Bee-saing villages and arrested about 40 villagers from those villages and forced them to carry their injured soldiers. They are forced to carry injured soldiers for nearly one day to reach to motor road to get car to bring the patients to the hospital.

 

As a normal abuse, during this military operation, the troops of Burmese Army looted various things belonged to civilians. Normally, they looted the civilians' livestock, vegetable and other valuable properties in farm-huts or in villages. The soldiers looted these belongings even the villages were at their homes or at their farms.

 

Some battalions are also cared in arresting villagers and used them as porters because they were afraid that the news could separate about their requisition of forced labour. Therefore, in some places especially in towns or cities, the Burmese Army's soldiers hired the men to be porters to carry their supplies and ammunitions. But they again collected money from the people in these towns or cities.

 

As an instance,

On September 10, 2002, in the troop exchange between LIB No. 34 and LIB No. 550 in Three Pagoda Pass Town, LIB No. 34 required many porters because they needed to return to their bases in Karen State. Quarterly troop exchange is managed by Southeast Command in Mouldmein because there is no permanent battalion in there. However they could not arrest as they liked, in this town because news could be separated. Then they informed to Township authorities that they would hire some civilians and called them 'paid porters'. It hired about 30 porters from town with payment, 1500 Baht (the people in this border town uses Thai currency Baht even it is in Burma) per each. Those paid porters needed to carry ammunitions and food supplies for over 10 days during rainy season. As the jungle roads were quite slippery and water level in streams were high, they have to pay for porters with possible price.

 

But the battalion commander never paid for these expenses and just ordered the Township authorities to collect porter fee from every house in Township. The amount range of porter fee collection in town was 70 Baht to 400 Baht. Depending on the economic conditions of the households, the amount of porter fee also varied. In this border town, there are about 1000 households and the authorities could collect a lot of money. According to reliable source, they received about 150, 000 Baht in total for porter fee.

 

The authorities transferred all these porter fees to army commander and he also shared some to authorities for their administration. He paid 45000 Baht for 30 porters and took the remaining. In this case, although the battalion commander could arrest some villagers outside of the town, but he preferred to collect porter fees because he could get some extra money for his battalion fund or his personal purpose.

 

But some battalion in Three Pagoda Pass border town did not conscript any civilians in towns, but they arrested the villagers along the road they moved. Normally, the road from border town to the battalion base is too far, the battalion which need to deploy for three months in town or the battalion which need to return to their original after troop exchange, they always arrested the civilians as porters to carry their ammunitions and food supplies for them for many days by walking.

 

As an instance,

On December 20, 2002, after exchanging with new military battalion, the troops of LIB No. 550 planned to return to Mon State from Three Pagoda Pass Township. The battalion's soldiers did not arrest any civilian in the town and left from town without porters. After leaving, they arrested the villagers especially farmers who were traveling or in farms and used them as porters. They conscripted about 20 porters along with them. They walked for 4 days from Three Pagoda Pass Town to Ye Township area and they brought the porters along with them. After they reached to their destination, they released them without any payment even for their travel and food when they needed to return.

 

In Ye Township, there are about 14 military battalions, the local population have been greatly suffered from the conscription of porters by not only one or two battalions, but the commanders from various military battalions forced the villagers to be porters.

 

Like many military battalions in Ye Township, another a regular battalion, LIB No. 343 which bases in the northern part of Township area, has constantly conscripted the villagers to be porters. This battalion was a well known battalion, that constantly used large number of forced and labour and has never cared any order by SPDC, whether Order No. 1/99 and its supplementing order. One commander of this battalion, Maj. Lin Oo, has cruelly involved in conscription of porters. The Major also led a special force formed by MOMC No. 19 with about 40 men in late 2002 and planned to uproot all activities of the Mon splinter groups and so that he conscripted many villagers as porters during the operation.

 

As an instance,

On October 15, 2002, when the troops of Maj. Lin Oo went into a Mon village in the southern part of Ye Township, Hangan, they arrested 5 villagers and then they arrested all villagers along the roads, who they met in farms or in fruit plantations. According to a porter, about 15 villagers were arrested by soldiers along the way and they were mostly farmers. They were forced to carry ammunitions and food supplies.

 

During the villager porters were with that special force, the serial fighting between Burmese Army and rebel soldiers also happened. Burmese soldiers also got serious injuries and three porters from different village were also hit by bullets. The porters were quite afraid of being killed in the fighting after some porters injured. The fighting happened in the southernmost area of Ye Township and the duration of the operation was only two weeks.

 

During this operation, the special force led by Maj. Lin Oo ordered the farmers in the area to not stay at their work places, if they found them outside of the village, the soldiers must shoot them to death. Even inside the village, he ordered the villagers to stay at their homes after 4:00 p.m. in the evening. If they found someone on the villages' roads, they must shoot them to death.

 

 

III. Women and Children in Porter Service by Burmese Army

 

In some areas, when the troops could not get any men in the area, they also arrested women in the area and forced them to carry ammunitions and food supplies like men. In most situation, the men were too frighten to go with troops of Burmese Army because they were severely tortured during porter service and are fed with insufficient amount of food. Therefore, the men in the villages always fled when they heard for the news of troops of Burmese Army were close to their villages. They did not want to be arrested by Burmese soldiers.

 

When the soldiers arrived into village, they tried to arrest all men to be porters. If they did not found any man, they also arrested some women and used them as porters.

 

As an instance,

On June 20, 2002, LIB No. 77 under the command of LID No. 88 led by Lt. Col. Myo Myint Win and his deputy, Maj. Myint Myint Oo, went into Wet-don and Wet-sa-kon villages and asked the village headmen from both villages to provide them with 40 men porters. The village headmen provided them and the soldiers took those villagers as porters for 7 days. After 7 days, they returned to these two villages again and requested the village headmen again to provide them with 40 porters to exchange with former porters. As most men were afraid of being arrested by the soldiers, they fled from village and hid in the forest. Then, the commanders were quite angry to the village headmen and then they arrested some women and used them as porters to carry ammunitions and food supplies for another 2 days to reach to their base. According to a woman, she was forced to carry about 5 motor shells like a man.

 

In some areas, women are also arrested by troops of Burmese Army to use them as human-shields or mine-sweepers. In many parts of conflict area, the rebel soldiers attacked the troops of Burmese Army unexpectedly by using ambush attack in guerrilla tactics. Therefore, the Burmese soldiers brought women to walk in advance of the soldiers as 'shields' to receive bullets if the rebel soldiers shoot to them. Similarly, if the Burmese Army suspects an area with land-mines, they also forced porters, men or women, to walk in advance as 'mine-sweepers'. This inhumane tactics has been used by Burmese Army for several years.

 

As an instance,

On November 9, 2002, when the troops of Burmese Army entered into Khaw-za village, in southern part of Ye Township, Karen State, they tried to arrest some men to use them as porters. But they arrested about 30 women in the village and forced them to carry their food supplies and also used them to walk in

advance as human-shields. It was too dangerous for Burmese troops alone to walk along the road to another village, Ying-ye, because they could be attacked by Mon rebel soldiers. Two villagers far over 10 miles, they had to walk for some hours to reach the destination. To prevent the attack or to avoid causality, the Burmese soldiers let the women walked in advance.

 

In Ye Township, when various military battalion followed and attacked Mon rebel soldiers, there were many fighting in the area and later they have used more and more villagers to be human-shields. As there was no land-mine planted area, but the Burmese Army used the villagers or women to be as human-shields to prevent bullets that could hit to them.

 

The use of women porters only happen in isolated rural area, where the village headmen are unable to manage providing men porters to Burmese Army. In such villages, the village headmen are also accused as rebel-supporters and they also had to flee with many other men when the Burmese Army arrived into their villages. When the Burmese Army does not found village headmen or men, they also arrested women.

 

When the Burmese soldiers arrested porters in the rural areas, they arrested all men including children and students along with them. They do not care the age of the young people and they just arrested them. Those arrested children or students and forced them to carry ammunitions and food supplies like an able-bodied man carry in the porter service.

 

As an instance,

On December 7, 2002, when a battalion of Burmese Army, LIB No. 506's troops arrested porters in the area outside of Three Pagoda Pass border town, they also arrested about 50 porters. When they arrived near Kyaw-palu village, in the southern part of the Town, they also arrested a 16 years old Mon boy, Mehm Krat Khakao, a high school student who attended in a Mon national school. He stayed in a village under NMSP control area, where the Burmese Army does not arrest porters in there, and but when he made a visit to a village that close to Three Pagoda Pass border town, therefore he was arrested. When he was arrested he also explained that he was a student but they did not release him. They said whether he was a student or a villager, he needed to carry ammunitions or motor shells for them. They put 5 motor shells on his back and let him carry for one day. The weight for the 5 motor shells is about 40 Kilograms and it was very heavy for a young boy. Although he asked to take rest on the halt way, but they did not allow. After the village headmen knew that a student was arrested, they made competition to commanders to release the student. Then they agreed to release him.

 

Burma or SPDC also ratified Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991 to agree guaranteeing for the rights of women and children. However, the troops of Burmese Army constantly violated their rights.

 

 

IV. Forced Labour in Works in Army "Self-reliance" Program

Since 1997, SPDC and Burmese Army's top commanders adopted a policy of 'self-reliance' among their subordinate military commands and battalions. The policy directly instructed the commanders concerned to seek their own fund for some administration cost in their battalion bases and for the support of soldiers' families.

 

To implement this type of policy, the army commanders took wild or forest lands in the area close to their battalions and created plantations for their own battalions. Since the initiative of creating of these plantations, the battalion commanders had constantly forced the civilians to do most works.

 

Many battalions confiscated civilians' lands and continuously harvest the crops and take rubber liquid if they confiscated rubber plantations. In 2000, many hundreds of rubber plantations were confiscated by various battalions under the command of MOMC No. 19. These battalions do not have to plant the new rubber plants, but could harvest rubber liquid for their battalions. Some battalions also confiscated paddy-growing farm lands or salt farms and take the products from these lands.

 

Whether the battalions created new plantations or continuously harvest crops or rubber liquid in confiscated lands, the army commanders always forced the civilians especially villagers from the villages to do in these plantations. For example, in a paddy field, the soldiers forced the villagers to work in ever)' cultivation processes from planting small paddy plants until they could reap the crops. Besides paddy cultivation, the battalions also grow corn, cane, and other crops, and the soldiers always forced the villagers to work in these farms on behalf on them.

 

As an instance,

LID No. 88, that takes main responsibility for the military operations in Kawkareik Township _ and Kya-inn-seikyi Township, Karen State, also takes base in Kyaik-don village in Kya-inn-seikyi Township. A commander from that military command, Col. Aung Myint, has also taken responsibility in creating corn and cane plantations for the battalion fund. However, the battalion commander regularly forced the villagers in the area to work in these plantations in all processes of cultivation.

 

On June 9, 2002, the commander ordered 20 villagers from Taung-wine village and another 20 villagers from Kyaik-don village to work in the plantations continuously for 3 days when they planned to grow corn and cane small plants. After 3 days working, they ordered the village headmen from these two villages to replace those villagers with another the same number of villagers. Taung-wine village situates about 12 miles far from the workplace and the villagers walked for 4 hours to reach to the base. They slept during the days they were working there. The soldiers did not feed them and they have to carry their own foods from homes.

 

The commander forced not only the villagers from Kya-inn-seikyi Township, but he also forced the villagers from Kawkareik village to contribute their unpaid labour. As the base was close to Kawkareik Township, he asked the villagers from that Township to come and work in plantations. The villagers from Kaw-saing, Lan-bar, Paing-kalar-done villages are constantly forced to do work in the plantations. About 100 villagers were sometimes forced to work during July and August to clear grasses among corn and cane plants.

 

In some battalions, in different types of business activities (not agriculture) for the regular income and anyhow they still force to contribute unpaid labour or to provide them with things that they required in operating business for their business, the villagers have to abandon all their works.

 

As an instance,

LIB No. 586 bases in the northern part of Ye Township area and it planned to involve in business of making bricks in order to produce large amount of bricks for selling. In making bricks, the battalion needed a lot of firewood to burnt clay to get hard bricks. But the soldiers were unable to cut and take the firewood from forests. Therefore, the army commander from the battalion, 2nd Warrant Officer Khin Maung Win ordered the village headmen from about 5 villages around the base to cut firewood and bring firewood for them. Accordingly to the order, each village need to provide 15 oxen-carts of firewood (which is about 4 tons in weight) to the battalions and so the village headmen collected from the village in early November 2002.

 

That was a large amount of firewood and the villagers had to spend many days to get full amount of firewood. The village headmen from each village had to manage to get full amount of requested firewood. They again ordered every household for the amount of firewood that each household had to find. Some houses provided their own firewood at home and some went into forest to find the required amount of firewood.

 

The village headmen required over 15 days to get the full amount of firewood and send them to the designated place set by LIB No. 586 commander. Although the commander said to the villagers that they would pay for the amount of firewood, but the villagers never believed the soldiers' promise. Until the end of 2002, no village received any payment from the commander of LIB No. 586.

 

As the battalion urgently required the requested amount of firewood, most villagers have to abandon the works and did the work of finding firewood for army. A man had to spend at least 3 days to get the requested amount of firewood in cutting in forest. During early November, there was a harvest season for rice and betel-nut fruits, however, the villagers have to abandon their works, said by a farmer from the area.

 

The unusual conscription of forced labour by the Burmese Army also affect to the livelihood of the civilians in the area concerned. When the soldiers urgently need the required some materials

 

 

V. Forced Labour in Army Deployment

 

Besides the villagers are forced to work in the Burmese Army's plantations in their 'self-reliance' program, they also forced the villagers to do for works in the purposes of deployment.

 

In most rural area, where the Burmese Army is taking bases, they always take the good positions, then build the military barracks and created the strong army compounds. In creating strong military' compound, they always tried to fence the compound, dig trenches and bunkers, and they needed many other works. In most of these works, the Burmese Army used the villagers to contribute their unpaid labour in there.

 

Since 1997, Burmese Army has increasingly deployed more military battalions in Mon State and Karen State. Although sometimes the army does not openly used forced labour in their bases, but they ordered the civilians to work instead of them outside of their bases. Especially, most battalions requested building materials for their bases and then forced the civilians in area nearby to provide them with these materials. To get these materials, the villagers had to go for many days. They have to bring their own foods and spend some days to get all requested materials and to send them to designated places set by army.

 

As an instance,

"On August 18,2002,2nd Warrant Officer Thein Sein from LIB No. 545 based Kyone-doe village, ordered the villagers from Kanni village to send 10 pole of bamboo for each household to their base for the construction of military barrack and fence round the base. To get this materials, one man have to spend at least one day to go into forest, cut diem and carry to their designated place. Not only the villagers from Kanni village were forced to provide bamboo, villagers from many other villagers were forced to provide the similar amount of bamboo."

 

In most battalion base, even after they have strong base, they still forced the villagers continuously in the maintenance of the military bases. The commanders concerned ordered the required building materials from the villagers and also forced them to re-pair barracks, to dig more deeper bunkers and do many other works. Not only the villagers are forced to help building barracks of the Burmese Army, they are also ordered to provide food for soldiers for living.

 

LIB No. 538 that bases close to Taung-dee village, Kya-inn-seikyi Township, Karen State, also used the villagers nearby to provide them with building materials in the base, to re-build some barracks and build new barracks and they also have to provide food for soldiers. Based on an interview with a 35 years old men from Taung-dee village, the conditions in a local area in Kya-inn-seikyi Township was as below:

 

"The villagers, have been suffered from various types of abuses from LIB No. 538. Before rainy season started (in June), they forced the whole villagers to provide them some building materials. They planned to rebuild their barracks, and they asked for bamboo, thatches and wooden poles. The villagers find these materials and then send those things to their bases by carrying or oxen-carts. After all building materials were collected, they again forced the villagers to come and rebuild the military barracks. The soldiers forced the villagers not only building the military barracks, but they also forced them to dig water canals around the barracks, to repair the bunkers and trenches and rebuild fence round the base.

 

"The soldiers also totally relied on the food provided by villagers. A commander, Warrant Officer Ne Win Myint ordered the villagers to bring meant or fish everyday for their soldiers' daily food. He normally ordered the village headmen to bring about 5-10 visses of pork or chicken or beef or fishes every day. The headmen collected money from the villagers and bought those meats. The price of the meat was about 2000 Kyat per viss. Therefore, the headmen had to collect money from 10000-20000 Kyat every day. The village have only 100 houses and so each household had to pay about 100-200 Kyat to headmen to buy meat while their come for one man was only 500 Kyat. The orders were always strong with commander's comment and if the village headmen failed to provide the requested meat, they must be punished.

 

"Besides the Burmese Army's

request for food and labour, the local villagers in the area have always suffered to pay DKBA troops for the food expenses when they arrived into the area. Although the civilians were hard to find daily and regular income, however, they have to pay every thing to Burmese Army and DKBA soldiers."

 

In the area where the Burmese Army and DKBA are taking base like Kya-inn-seikyi, Kawkareik, and Pa-an Townships of Karen State, the villagers have been regularly requested the basic requirement of their battalions and therefore, they have been suffered from the constant conscription of forced labour.

 

 

VI. Conclusion

 

ILO has demanded Burma and the ruler SPDC to stop all requisition of forced labour since 1998 and to help the regime to practically halt all practices and amend the legislation, it has sent several technical and experts' teams to Burma. However, SPDC has no strong political will to change its decades long behaviour.

 

Although some laws and legislations are amended, since Burma is in a country where the authorities and army has not respected 'the rule of laws', the amended laws and legislations have not so effective.

 

Even ILO representative is in Rangoon, she could easily get access into the areas, where the serious conflict occurs or, to die rural areas, where most the requisition of forced labour happen, no detail information could be received. Various types of requisition of forced labour occurred not only Mon State, but also in Tenasserim Division, Karen State, Kayar (Karenni) State, Shan State and Arakan State still occur accordingly to media and human rights sources.

 

 

Commentary

Forced Labour that Affects the Livelihood of the People

 

The conscription or requisition of forced labour has not really stopped in Burma, especially members of Burmese Army use the civilians in rural area in the porter service, construction of army base and in their 'self-reliance' program.

In the case of conscription of forced labour, the civilians has not only suffered from back breaking works in the workplace, but also it affects their livelihood in general. The majority of the civilians who are forced to work for Burmese Army are poor and they are mostly hand-to-mouth farmers or labourers in their farms or plantations or in fishing activities.

 

Those civilians have no holidays and have worked in their own workplaces: farms, plantations and others, or in other employers' workplaces continuously. Their wages is low, all prices of human needed commodities are too expensive. Even though most civilians are working hard without taking a short rest and additional psychological stress, they still could not provide enough income for their families' food, education and health relating expenses.

 

Additional requisition of forced labour by SPDC authorities and members of Burmese Army created their lives to be more deeper in the cycle of poor. The money demand instead of labour largely conducted by SPDC authorities since ILO instructed the regime for elimination of forced labour. Generally the people have to work hard not only for feeding their families but also to pay SPDC authorities and members of Burmese Army.

 

 

 

Information on HURFOM and Invitation for Feedbacks 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. 0. Bangkok 10140, THAILAND

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

 

With regards,

Director

Human Rights Foundation of Monland