Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Locals Used as Army Porters on Western Border

Dhaka (Narinjara): The Burma army has been forcing people living in northern Buthidaung Township to work as porters transporting weapons and rations along the border since March, when the army started construction on a border fence.

According to a report issued by the Free Burma Arakan Ranger Team recently, the Burmese army has used many Arakanese nationals, such as Khami, Dynet, Mro, and Chakmar people as porters in the area to transport army goods and equipment along the border.

The report also stated that the army authority recently forced many people from the border villages to clear brush located in the tract of land along the border. Although the army provided some food to people who were working, it was only about half the amount of food they actually needed.

One army column led by Major Htin Nwe from Light Infantry Battalion 550 used 45 villagers from seven villages as porters when the column moved from border pillar 57 to pillar 67 to inspect the fence.

The villagers had to work for at lest ten days as army porters without any wages for their work, the report said.

After receiving the report, Narinjara contacted many local people in the area for confirmation.

One leader from the Dynet community told Narinjara on the condition of anonymity that the Burmese army used people as porters in the area regularly to transport their equipment and rations from one village to another without any payment.

The army authority ordered all villages in the areas to place two villagers everyday in standby to carry out army work. When the army needs people as porters, two villagers from each village have to go to the army outpost to work without pay.

However, the Burmese army does not allow use of the term "porter", and instead army officials refer to the workers as "correspondents".

Many tribal villages, including Wa Net Ron, Sin Pru Byin, Yaw gai, Kha Maung, Tha Phan, Poak Chaung, Tha Pru Gri, Tha Pru Chay, Athet Nahan, Aout Nahan, Maung Na Ma, Long Chaung, Pha Ra Zai, Nga Pe Yon, Atai Kyat, in northern Buthidaung Township have been facing the problem of forced labor, with people in the area being used regularly by the army.

One villager from the area said that army authorities use villagers not only as porters but also other work like construction of army barracks, clearing brush in the army compound, and constructing fences around the army camps.

Furthermore, many villages in the area will have to send bamboo, wood, and wood pillars to reconstruct the army barracks before the rainy season begins, he added.

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