Narinjara news

“Primary schools for foreign tourists” at the expense of villagers

Sittwe, 8th October 02:
   In a bid to spruce up the villages along the Sittwe Rangoon motor road, in the western part of Burma, the Burmese junta SPDC have forced the villagers along the road to collect at least 55% of the fund required to construct hundreds of new primary schools, reports our correspondent from Sittwe.

Western Commander Brigadier General Maung Oo on a visit to the villages in Ponnagyun Township in the last week of July ordered all the schools to be completed by the end of Buddhist Lent in mid-October, our correspondent said.  The Sittwe Rangoon road meanders from Sittwe the capital of Rakhine State through the townships of Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-u, Min-bra, Mre-bon, Ann, Taungup, and into Pyi district under Bago division and finally to Rangoon.

The construction work, too, has been done by forced labour conscripted from among the villagers, a school teacher in Sittwe said.  The construction of each of the school involves about two million kyat in expenses, while the Burmese junta offer only nine hundred thousand kyat  the remaining 1.1 million kyat is realized from the villagers by force.  In an average each of the village family is required to pay a toll of five to ten thousand kyat, an amount quite high for the jobless villagers.

Many villagers who were unable to pay the toll were arrested and detained by the police.   The situation has landed them into a dilemma of getting detained and paying the bribe money required to either get released or to continue the lawsuits, he said.  While due to the recent price spiral the price of rice, the staple food, has shot up, many villagers who are basically dependent on agriculture are facing food shortage.  Lack of work also has forced many villagers to   face the threat of constant starvation.

Paying toll to the Burmese junta’s school construction fund and bribing the police for escaping legal actions due to no fault of their own have made the villagers scapegoats of the whimsical lawless laws of the junta, according to the schoolteacher.

Besides the money the villagers are forced to work in the construction sites of the schools  carry bricks, mortar, steel rods, and wooden planks, dig trenches and do other manual works the whole day. 

Villages where now the illegal toll collection and forced labour are conscripted include Paung-dok, Pibaung-raung, Laungret-taung-maw, Naingya, Si-the-rwa, Shan-taung, Kung-baung in Mrauk-u TownshipAung-pru-braung, Tha-rek-cho, Kran-khung, Kyaung-talang, Taung-na-rwa, Yaw-mu, Kyauk-cheik, Padetha, Phung-cho, Kyaung-aung-gree, Pan-neela in Ponnagyun Township. 

The schoolteacher said that the beautification and ‘development drives’ is being done to show to the future foreign tourists how the Burmese junta gives importance to the development of education sector in the much neglected minority state of Rakhine.  #