Monday, April 20, 2009

Forced sentry duty a cause for poverty

By Aung Kham

(Shan Herald)-Local people in Southern Shan State’s Mong Nai Township are being forced to stand sentry every night, or pay Kyat 2500($2.5) - 4,000($4) to hire a substitute, despite being in financial difficulties, according to reliable sources.

“When I was a boy, I used to follow my father when he was on sentry duty. If he was busy, I had to go in his stead sometimes. I was about 13 years old at that time. Now I’m 30 years old, but I still have to serve as a sentry and have to think in advance when my turn will come again. It has become routine and a part of my life,” he said.

Sentry duty for civilians started since General Ne Win era (1975-1988) until today, according to another source.

“During the Socialist era, sentry duties were imposed by the military. Today, I’m not sure whether they were ordered by the military, but village headmen keep ordering villagers to continue standing sentry. There are 5 people for each sentry box and we have 5 sentry boxes in our quarter”, said a villager.

Normally, the fee for hiring a substitute is 2,500 Kyat per day but during full moon day or other important days the wage is higher, up to 4,000 Kyat. The people’s incomes are also hurt by sentry duties. On the other hand, the military is forcing villagers to plant summer paddy which not agrees with the local soil which is and there is higher price for seeds”, according to a local villager.

Mong Nai has 5 quarters which are Paw Mong, Nawng Geaw, Na Hawng, Oo Yin, Loi Way and Nawng Kham. There are about 70-80 house per quarter and each is divided to 4-5 groups. Each group has at least one sentry box. Whenever the military hear that the Shan State Army (SSA) is active in the area, villagers have to stand sentry all day and night, he added.

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