2000 Reports On Forced Labour

Supply Wood Or Pay Fine

Each block of villages in Paletwa area, Southern Chin State, were forced to supply wood of 75 cubic feet per block. The defaulter Hemapi block had to pay the fine of Ks. 60000 to Major Zaw Tun, the battalion commander of Sinletwa. The Battalion, Light Infantry Battalion LIB 538, issued an order that each of the 18 blocks in the surrounding area must saw the wood and send to him. The villagers were cheated that the wood would be used for building boats for the convenience of the public.

In October 2000, the Platoon commander Kyaw Kyaw Oo of LIB 538 ordered the villages of Pathiantlang (Upper and Lower), Sia Oo, Hemate and Hemapi to supply 150 cubic feet each as a punishment for having moved the villages two years ago.Major Zaw Tun sold the wood to traders in ThuraAi for Ks. 1000 per cubic feet, only for his own pocket. It was learnt that he issued the order after the ThuraAi traders gave him the advice to do so, and offered a good deal. In the transaction, the traders were given the right to reject wood with flaws, in which case, the villagers were told to supply "good wood."

In remote areas like Sinletwa, not every village has people who know how to saw wood. Shortage of tools is another problem. Some villages had to hire wood men for Ks. 500 per person per day. Maung Tin Aye and Kyaw Thein of ThuraAi, Tun Win of Sinletwa, and Aung Tun Hla of Sweletwa were reported to have purchased the wood from Major Zaw Tun.

Soldiers who had a temporary camp in Sweletwa, Sinowa and Puahhmung demanded 2 persons from each block, to serve in the camp. The villagers serve in the camp as slave labours, doing whatever they were told including night sentry.

Villagers of Para, Tlopi, Hemapi, Hemate, Pintia, uppper and lower Pathiantlang, Mau, Salangpi and Arakan villages near Saiha held a meeting on September 17, and decided to report the deeds of the camp commanders to higher authorities. Each household in the whole area contributed Ks. 100 for the expenses of those who would go for the reporting to plain Burma.

FORCED LABOUR IN MATUPI TOWNSHIP

Border Area Development means torture, forced labour, displacement of families and destruction of an ordinary villagers in the border areas "My name is Tuan Hrang (name change for security reason), 48 years old and I am from Capaw village, Matupi township, Chin State. Our village is situated between Sabawngte and Lailenpi village. There is a Burmese army camp under the command of Major Maung Maung stationed in Sabawngte village which is half a days walk from our village (about 12 miles) and there is another Burmese army post in Lailenpi village which is 24 miles away from our village.

Thus, the army always compels us to work for them. The situation became much worse in our area last year when the army started to implement a border area development project. In January 1999 Major Maung Maung and Lt. Myo Swe issued an order to construct a road for cars between Sabawngte village and Lailenpi village under this project. We were forced to work on the road for the whole year with no time to work for ourselves. We were not paid at all for our labours. Also, we had tocarry our own rations, medicines and all the tools necessary for road construction.

The work was very hard and we had to work from dawn to dark. The food was not very good so we became sick. Some people suffered from malaria and some from diarrhea. Some people even died from their illnesses. The sick people were allowed two days rest only when his/her condition was at its very worst. We were not even allowed to go to church for Sunday worship service. The working conditions were terrible. The road we constructed had to be 10 feet wide and, as it is mountainous area, the embankment of the road is about 10 to 20 feet high. The soldiers guarded us when we were working. They forced us to work until 9 or 10 PM, and only after that, allowed us to eat our supper. We become very weak and thin because of excessive work and lack of nutrition. Since the Burmese army battalion stationed itself in our area, forced labour, torture and all kinds of harassment are no longer strange in our daily lives. Our village of 60 households used to be quiet and a nice place to live but now we have only 30 households left. Many families fled to Mizoram State in India and many peoples moved to other villages or towns. Now the population of our village is about 200 and only about 50 of us are able to work. Most of the time we have to spend our labours working for the army and there is no time left to work for ourselves.

As a result, we will surely starve in the coming year. Major Maung Maung and Lieutenant Thin Lin Aung of Sabawngte army camp issued an order on December 9,1999 for the following five villages to reconstruct the road: Capaw, Sabawngte, Sabawngpi, Darling and Hlungmang

1. They demanded 60 workers from Capaw village but only 15 people could show up.
2. They demanded 80 workers from Sabawngte village but only 40people could show up.
3. They demanded 80 workers from Sabawngpi village but only 38 peoplecould show up.
4. They demanded 80 workers from Darling village but only 40 peoplecould show up.
5. They demanded 60 workers from Hlungmang village but only 12 peoplecould show up.

The army demanded 340 people to reconstruct the road from five villages but only more than a hundred people could work. While working, the soldiers punched, kicked and beat us whenever they wanted. We were not even allowed to go to our villages to celebrate Christmas. Being Christians, Christmas celebrations are the most joyful time for us. However, last Christmas, we were working as forced labourers in the jungle. Many forced labourers got sick but they did not receive any medicine or treatment from the army. Thus we have to find medicine by ourselves. The slogan "Border Area Development" sounds great but in reality it means forced labour, torture, displacement of families and destruction of the lives of ordinary villagers in the border areas just like what happened to our village.

A YOUNG BOY DROWNED WHILE RELAYING A LETTER FOR THE ARMY

My name is Pu Vu Leng, 40 years old Chin Christian. I am a farmer from Sabawngte Village, Matupi township, Chin State. Rizua village is two days walk from our village, Sabawngte. The military ordered me to relay a letter to Rizua village. The letter was from 2ndLt. Thin Lin Aung of Aimed forces No.3107/Khalahyah 273 Battalion to Major Maung Maung. On December 27,99, I walked to Darling village. The following day, I and a boy named Khai Tlua started to walk to another village, Capaw. When we were crossing Bawinu River, the boy was drowned. This boy is the youngest of 8 children in the family. Since the family is too poor to support him to go to school, the boy helps his parents on farming.

His body was found on the evening of the same day and was carried to Sabawngte village and the people in the village buried him. Even though he died on journey ordered by the military, the family was not given any helps by the military. In view of the New Year 2000, people wanted to celebrate continuously Christmas throughout New Year. Unfortunately, the celebration was interrupted by the death of this boy. No one dared to make any complaint to the military. The military used the people as they like. But they ignored what people suffered and even death. People in Sabawngte village suffered most because there is a military camp.

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