The Changing faces of forced labour
Sittwe, 10th March 03: At present forced labour is once again being used with different tactics in various areas of western Burma, our correspondent reported after a tour across the northern part of Rakhine (Arakan) state.
In Maungdaw and Buthidaung areas close to the border with Bangladesh, our correspondent found people being conscripted for forced labour in a number of villages who are being paid very little amounts of money.
At present large scale use of forced labour is going on at Khamaung-cheik Nasaka camp, at Nasaka area 2, in building strong bunkers, and in constructing a Buddhist temple at Way-la-daung village. At Ngaraing-chaung, forced labour is also being used to construct what the junta calls
At the same area at Aung Juu camp, the Nasaka forces used at least five hundred villagers from nearby villages as forced labour for cutting down firewood for the brickfield owned by the Nasaka. For cutting and carrying the firewood they gave kyat ten for every piece of firewood log brought to the brick kiln. Because of the long distance and heavy weight of the logs, a stout worker can hardly carry 7/8 hardwood logs in a day, making the payment something of a mockery, they said.
The forced labourers complained that although there was an order for paying each worker kyat four hundred a day since September last year, each of them has been paid just kyat one hundred. They complained that a meal in a third class restaurant costs them kyat five hundred at present price, so that the money given them only increases their dissatisfaction and make their life more difficult.
The forced labourers here also complained that a person working unskilled works in the village or town can earn at least kyat five hundred a day, while the coarse variety of rice, the only staple food for the poor, costs as much as kyat three hundred a kilo.
The nature of work include cutting down of trees and bamboos, transport of them, carrying of ration and cement bags, and harvest of the paddy in the camp-owned paddy fields. The forced labour is being also used in movement of troops and their families from one place to another.
Many of the local villagers said that in recent years the junta has got down to stopping all kinds of use of forced labour at least one month in advance of the visit of foreign dignitaries including the team from ILO. During this period the villagers are again and again briefed regularly with what to tell to the visitors and what not to when asked.
The villagers have complained to our correspondent that, though the junta uses forced labour, the villagers have been told to use the term of “voluntary labour” for those conscripted for carrying out hard works like carrying hard firewood, bricks, cement bags, ration and ammunition boxes, and construction of buildings, and other such things. #