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The Irrawaddy Situation Report (r)
- Subject: The Irrawaddy Situation Report (r)
- From: brelief@xxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 05 Feb 1999 08:24:00
We think the report below is extremely interesting and important. Several
red flags went up as we read it, but we need more information. In
particular, we would appreciate more information about the growing of
eucalyptus trees. We imagine that the Japanese are keen to have eucalyptus
plantations but we would have thought for pulp purposes (we understand that
Japan in general and Mitsubishi Trading in particular, consume a voracious
amount of wood).
>In our region the SLORC is encouraging villagers to grow eucalyptus trees.
>We are informed by the Forestry Department that Japan will buy oil
>extracted from the trees and will give a lot of money. Therefore, many
>villages have around thousand of those trees grown by villagers. Also the
>Forestry Department is growing a lot. Shwe Kyun Thar camp, a place formally
>a village of Eukyun village which was relocated has around five thousands
>of those trees. The Department forced some villages to relocate and cut
>down coconut trees and then grown eucalyptus trees. They said they would
>make the region green by substituting eucalyptus trees. (There is no
>knowledge distribution that growing eucalyptus trees would affect the land.)
Any clarification of this eucalyptus plantation scheme, the effect that it
will have on soil, water, etc. and Japan's role, esp. whether ODA money
would be involved, would be very much appreciated.
Visakha and Ken
The Irrawaddy Situation Report
Documented by Hsaw Wah Deh Group
Federation of Trade Unions-Burma (Trade Union Rights/Human Rights)
The following information has been obtained from an interview with a 23
year old migrant worker who left Burma in the beginning of 1999.
My village is in Latputta township, in Irrawaddy division. The reason I
left my village is there is no hope for our family to live. In December
1998, the SLORC officials ordered that about 30 villages in Latputta
township should be relocated because, according to the Forestry
Department's map, those villages were located in the preserved forest area.
The villages have been there for years, since before the independence of
Burma. Each village has about 200 families and there are many rice fields
and coconut trees there. Thus, villagers were very
upset about the relocation and tried to negotiate with the authorities.
There is no proper law to defend us and the authorities can do anything
they want. Even criminals who offered money to the court were released.
The villages have not moved yet because the harvest is not finished. In
our region, this year's crop is low because of drought. However, the quota
rice demanded by the SLORC is the highest compared to the previous years:
Twelve baskets of unhusked rice per acre for every acre. (one basket is 46
pounds). The quota rice rate is about 350 kyats a basket. Previous years,
there were grades of soil, and with that classification, the quota rice was
demanded ranged from 5 baskets to 12 baskets per acre. Moreover, there is
another rice demand from the army, which is called "Goodwill Rice". It is
officially asked 2 tins of rice. (one tin is about 2.4 kgs). However, the
army demands two extra tins to cover transportation and shrinkage. The
actual quota is four tins.
There were threats that persons who fail to fulfill the quota rice must be
imprisoned and his or her rice field should be confiscated and handed over
to companies that were advised by the SLORC to grow rice.
Demands from the SLORC soldiers
The army is also recruiting new soldiers. The soldiers demand 3 to 4
villagers over 14 years of age every year. Therefore, villages have to
collect money (about 500 Kyats a family) and give it to the soldiers for
failing to recruit new soldiers for the army.
There are demands for Kahtein and other religious ceremonies of the army.
Villagers have to donate money but we do not hear any ceremonies being held
by the soldiers of the camp.
In summer, the army camp, usually soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion
No. 271, ordered villagers to cut down coconut trees for repairing bunkers.
We have to contribute our workforce for that purpose. Our village sends
about 15 persons a day by rotation to the camp for building bunkers,
barracks and fences. We receive nothing. We have to bring tools and food
of our own. Even soldiers do not allow sufficient time to have lunch. When
the whistle blows to continue work, we have to stop and leave the rest of
food. If the soldiers do not like the work, they order villagers to work
at night or continue work the next day. Villagers who fail to work are
charged 60 to 90 Kyats a day depending on the type of work.
The UNDP Assistance
The villagers are getting poorer and poorer. However, the UNDP has started
assisting our poor villagers by its development programs. The UNDP Burmese
staff members are rich. They use high quality equipment and materials, such
as good boats and bags. They come to villages for giving injections to
children and granting loans to the villagers. Medicine is free but
villagers have to pay money to the team for meals, while they are staying
in our village. A six men team which came for injections and spent a day in
a village, requested 10,000 Kyats for their meals. Big villages like Ein Ma
Gyi had to pay 30,000 Kyats to the UNDP team for food. Sometimes, there was
a Westerner with the group and then, the group did not ask money for food.
The loan program is for poor villagers in our area. The UNDP lent money for
a pig farm, for buying new fishing nets, for growing eucalyptus trees and
for growing betel leaves. There is 3 percent interest rate per month. The
loan is for one year term. However, the staff explained that if a lender
is only able to pay interest by the year end, they would consider to extend
the period. I think the program is not so good for the rural people.
Moreover, buying a pig's rate is also about 35% higher than the actual rate.
There are primary schools and clinics jointly built by the UNDP and
villagers. Villagers have to pay half of the price of buildings being
built. After that, wealthy families of villages have to pay 100 Kyats a
month for teachers and nurses whose salaries are around 1,000 Kyats.
In our region the SLORC is encouraging villagers to grow eucalyptus trees.
We are informed by the Forestry Department that Japan will buy oil
extracted from the trees and will give a lot of money. Therefore, many
villages have around thousand of those trees grown by villagers. Also the
Forestry Department is growing a lot. Shwe Kyun Thar camp, a place formally
a village of Eukyun village which was relocated has around five thousands
of those trees. The Department forced some villages to relocate and cut
down coconut trees and then grown eucalyptus trees. They said they would
make the region green by substituting eucalyptus trees. (There is no
knowledge distribution that growing eucalyptus trees would affect the land.)
My parents advised me to give up as a farmer and find a job in town.
Therefore, I went to Bogalay but it was difficult to get a job. I met a
security guard of the hospital there and he suggested not to work because
his salary was around 700 Kyats and it was not sufficient. Then, he
requested permission to resign, but the authorities told him he would be
allowed to resign if he give 7,000 Kyats as compensation. He has no money
so he has to continue working there. This rule is about the same in every
department. Therefore, I left for Thailand to work.