SPDC uses Forced Labor in Army Owned Farm
The Burmese army has been forcing the civilian to work in the army-owned farms in Kankaw township of Western Burma, according to the testimony of U Kyaw Win (Name changed for security reason). A 48 year-old village headman from XXX village, U Kyaw Win testified to the CHRO field reporter that amidst claims by Burmese junta of having eradicated forced labor in Burma, the practice continues.
According to him, the Burmese army has a large plot of farm in the vicinity of Taung-khin-yin Village of Kankaw Township, Magwe division, Western Burma. The farm is operated under the supervision of army North Western Command since 1996.
From the beginning, villagers were forced to clear 15,000 acres of virgin land. Since then, forced labor never ceases in our area. From 1997 to 2001 the farm was operated under the command of Major Kyaw Soe of Light Infantry Battallion LIB 269 based in Tidim.
From March 2001, Major Kyaw Soe was replaced by Major Zaw Oo from Light Infantry Battalion LIB 226, based in Haka. Civilians from around the area have to work at the army farm from the time of sowing to harvesting time. Sometimes the soldiers are unsatisfied with the human labor, and forced laborers are made to bring along their bulls and buffaloes to work at the farm
This harvesting season (2001), civilians from Taung-khin-yin village, Tha-lin village, Shwebo village, Thin-taw village, Hnan-kha village, Min-tha village, Kung-ywa village, A-lay village and Ywa-ma villagers are among those forced to work at the army farm from June to Septermber
U Kyaw Win added that; besides the farm works, villagers have to do manual works for the army such as building the army barracks, cutting woods for the army, carrying waters and making furniture for the army officers.
( CHRO: interview U Kyaw Win on October 1, 2001 )
SPDC Troops Forced Chin Villagers To Serve as Porters
The Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion LIB 268 from Lentlang army camp, Tidim township of Chin state, forced 15 civilians from Lentlang village to serve as porter on September 8, 2001.
The porters were herded by Sergeant Tin Myint of LIB 268, and his troops from Lentlang village to Tio village of Falam township, Chin State. When they arrived to Tio village, the porters were forced to carry ration for the army. Overburdened, the porters could not carry the loads.
Thus, Sergeant Tin Myint demanded two more porters from Tio village. While the porters were packing the load, one soldier took a stick and started to beat the porters saying that they are too slow in packing the load. He stopped beating them only after an elder from Tio village begged the soldier to stop.
The next day, on September 9, 2001, Sergeant Tin Myint and his troops took another 15 porters from Tio village and forced them to carry army ammunition from Tio village to Lentlang army camp.
Ms. Nini (an eye witness of the incident), 29 years old villager from Tio village reported the incident to CHRO field worker on September 15 2001.
(CHRO note: the name Nini is not her real name. We changed the name to protect her identity for security reasons)
Forced Portering In Thantlang Twongship
Burmese Army Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 and LIB 268 conducted a joint military operation in Thantlang township, Chin State in the month of August 2001. Commanding in charge of military intelligence unit in Chin State, Hla Myint Htun led the operation.
To aid in the supply needs during the operation, Hla Myint Htun and his troops arrested many civilians to serve as porters. The huge loads of army supplies, however, exceeded the availability of civilian porters. Thus, the troops demanded horses from the civilians to carry the loads.
The operation lasted for three weeks, and villagers from Thantlang township had to endure grueling conditions during the whole operations.
FORCED LABOR IN MAGWE DIVISION
Farmers from Kangaw township, Magwe division of Western Burma have been forced to work on the farm owned by the Burmese military North Western command, despite claims to the ILO that the practice has been eradicated in Burma.
According to U Ba Thein (name changed), 50 years old Burmese farmer from Hantha-wadi village of Kangaw township, it’s been 3 months that all the villagers from Kangaw township are forced to work on the North Western command military-owned farm. The forced labour started in June and is still going on at the time CHRO interviewed U Ba Thein on August 18, 2001.
U Ba Thein was forced to work at one of the forced labour camps called ” Kyu-kya ” under the command of Major Thein Aung of Light Infantry Battalion LIB 309 Katha battalion. There are several forced labour camps in Kangaw township and Colonel Hla Ngwe, tactical commander of North Western Command is the supervisor of all the labour camps in Magwe division.
Despite their engagement with forced labour most of the time, villages’ headmen are ordered to submit monthly report to the township Peace and Development office saying that there is no forced labour and forced porter in their village.
Racially selective settlement and relocation being implemented in Kalay-Tamu Area
The State peace and Development Council in Sagaing Division has established three new villages between Kalay and Tamu town since March 2001. In the new three villages, only Burmese Buddhists are allowed to settle, although the surrounding areas have been co-inhabited by ethnic Chin and Shan-Bama decent.
The names of the three villages are Yanmyo-Aung, Yantaing-Aung, and Yanngein-Aung. The meaning of the villages name literally translates “conquest of the enemy”. These names are reported to have been dubbed based on superstitious astronomical readings consulted by SPDC.
The area is mostly inhabited by Chin and Shan-bamas and there are many virgin lands and forest in the surrounding areas. The inhabitants in the area are prohibited to extend their farm or plough the virgin land. Only the Burmese Buddhists are allowed to settle in the new villages.
The SPDC persuades (Burman) people from Minkin township of Magwe division to settle in the new villages promising them that they would be sufficiently provided with whatever they need.
Since January 2001, the SPDC authority strictly collects or seizes goods and commodities, such as rice, cooking oil, bicycles, medicines and farm animals from traders and villagers. The goods they seized were provided to the new settlers from the three villages.
According to U Than Aung (name changed), 60 years old Burmese farmer from Tamu township, all the nearby villages have been working in the new three villages since March 2001 till today. The villagers have to build school, houses, digging the well, cutting wood and ploughing in the farm for the new settlers. (Date of interview with U Than Aung, 11 August 2001).
SPDC monopolizes farming management
The State Peace and Development Council in Kangaw township have forced farmers to buy paddy seeds, corn seeds and bio-fertilizer with high price saying that the paddy seeds which they sell can produce 300 tins of rice in one acre area of land and that all the farmers should buy and sow them in their farm.
Thus, all the farmers bought the paddy seeds from the authority with a high price, 1,800 Kyats per tin and corn seeds with 80 Kyats per one pyi (one pyi is about 4 kgs ) and a bottle of bio-fertilizer for 800 Kyats.
But when they actually grow the paddy seeds they bought from the SPDC authority, it produced only 60 tins per acre according to U Tha Lu, 50 years old Burmese farmer from Hanthawadi village of Magwe division. The authorities buy back the rice from farmers with the rate of 350 Kyats per tin.
“It is totally unjust. When they sold them to us, we paid 1,800 Kyats per tin and they want to buy back from us with the price of 350 Kyats per tin” said U Tha Lu.
The SPDC authority started this method in the year 2000 and they knew that it is damaging the farmers. But when the monsoon, farming season in Burma, come in June authority repeated what they did to the farmer last year.(CHRO interviewed U Tha Lu on 9 August 2001)
Villages Headmen Must Sign: “There Is No Porter or Forced Labour”
CHRO received a report from reliable source that the SPDC in Kalay Township, Sagaing Division have ordered all the villages headmen to report that there is no porter and forced labour in their respective areas.
According to U Phu Kya (Name changed for security reason), 45 years old Burmese village council member from Ywasi-Ywatha village tract of Sagaing Division, starting from June 2001 the township Peace and Development Council ordered all the village headmen to write monthly report that there is no porter or forced labour in their village, despite the existence of the practice of forced labor on a large scale throughout the region.
Again on August 8, 2001, all the village council members in Kalay Township were summoned to the township Peace and Development Council office and forced to sign that there is no porter or forced labour in their village.(Date of interview with U Phu Kya: 11 August 2001)
October 4, 2001: Junta disbands Christian infrastructure, restricts access to theological studies abroad
According CHRO source, Chin Christian ministers face a limited access for their further studies in foreign countries especially in the United States. Even though the ruling military junta in Burma does not explicitly impose law on restriction on Christian ministers for their further studies, many Chin Christian ministers have had their application for passport rejected for unknown reasons.
The majority of Christian pastors who come for further studies in the United States from Burma are Chins. According to sources, Chin Christian ministers make about two third of the population among those who come to the States for further Studies in the field of theology.
The American Baptist Missionary came to Chinland in late 19th Century and majority of Chins converted to Christianity by the end of 20th century. The United States is the most favoured place for Christian ministers for further studies.
Since 1995, Christian institutions in Burma cannot get permission from the authority to build Christian infrastructure such as Church, seminary and Christian school. According to the rule and regulations imposed by the ruling military junta, any religion in the country can apply permission at the ministry of Home and Religions Affairs to build the institution’s infrastructure. However, the ministry always rejects their applications.
After bribing a good deal of money to the lower level, township or district authorities, Christians institutions are allowed to repair, extend or build their infrastructure.
Furthermore, Christians are prohibited to hold worship service in their home. According to the order no. 100 ( HTWE ) 10/TTP-345/ KL-2000 dated 26 May 2000 released from the office of township directorate office of religious affairs in Kalay Myo, Sagaing division, there will be no more home worship service, religious meeting and training outside of the church. The order warned that anyone who does not abide by the order would be put on trial.
SPDC troops abduct civilian vehicles at whims
According to Khuma, one of the drivers from the “Zalat Phyu” truck association in Tahan, Sagaing Division, the Burmese troops constantly abduct their vehicles whenever they want.
” Zalat Phyu” truck association was formed with truck owners, mostly Chins from Falam and Tedim of Chin state and Tahan of Sagaing division. There are about 30 truck running every day. Since the beginning of their functioning, the Burmese military have been using ” Zalat Hhyu” trucks without pay for whenever they want.
Most of the time, the truck association has to serve as porter for the Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion LIB 266 based in Haka, LIB 268 in Falam and LIB 269 in Tedim, in Chin State. The Association has to transport army rations, arms and ammunitions and the Burmese soldiers whenever they travel.
They also have to carry their own food and the Burmese army does not provide anything to the driver or the truck association.
According to Khuma, he transported LIB 266 troops from Tio river, Indo-Burma border to Haka, the capital of Chin state. The military paid nothing for his service.
Khuma said that sometimes the Burmese troops abduct the truck to squeeze money from the association. In that case, the truck is usually released after letting the driver pay between 10,000 to 30,000 Kyats to the army.
Every vehicle coming from Kalay myo has to transport one quintal of sand without fail for the Buddhist pagoda being built at Lentlang, Falam township of Chin State. It is compulsory for every car. Besides, any vehicle passing through Manipur River has to donate 500 Kyats at the immigration gate.
Civilian in Southern Chinland forced to work at the Army Camp
CHRO received and confirmed the following information from Mr. Thang Cin, 55 year old farmer from Lungcawipi village, Matupi towship of Chin state. In the first week of June 2001 Lieutenant Kyaw Kyaw Naing of Light Infantry Battalion LIB 274 from Sabawngte army camp asked village headmen from Lungcawipi, Hlungmang, and Darling to attend a meeting on June 9 at Sabawngte army camp. He warned the villages headmen that any one who fail to attend the meeting will face revere punishment.
In the meeting, Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing issued an order for the villagers. The order includes 5 points that the villagers must obey without fail. To rebuild the fence of Sabawngte army camp. Villagers are not allowed to carry their gun outside of the village. Those who carry their gun outside of the village will be shot. To keep the record of visitors or guest from other villages. Villagers must obtain permission from the headman when they want to travel. Any guest who does not have permit from the headman shall report to the army camp.
Lt. Kyaw Kyaw Naing warned the villagers that if any villagers fail to comply the above order, the village must be burnt by the army. According to order number one, the villagers from Lungcawipi, Hlungmang, and Darling were forced to work from June 11, 2001. Villagers were forced to work from dawn to dark. Even though, the beginning of monsoon-the month of June- is the busiest time for villagers to work in their farm, they have to abandon their farm work and repair the fence of the army camp. The villagers have to bring their own food and tools to work at the army camp.
Interview with an escaped prisoner from Saya San Hard Labor Camp
(Rhododendron Note: Saya San Force Labour Camp is located in Kabaw valley of Sagaing Division, Western Burma )
Name : Thang Hnin (name changed)
Town/Village : Haka
Age : 41
Marital Status : Married with three children
Nationality : Chin
Religion : Christian
Interview date : 28/3/2001 at Aizawl.
CHRO: Why were you arrested?
Thang Hnin : I was arrested by the Military Intelligence for carrying teak lumber without permission. I used to obtain a permission for doing this business on previous occasions but unfortunately I did not have one with me when I was arrested.
CHRO: Where were you kept after your arrest?
Thang Hnin: After being arrested, the MI had the Forestry Department lay charges against me and the court sentenced me to two and a half years in prison. After being convicted, I was sent to Kaley prison for three months after which I was again sent to Saya San Hard Labor Camp.
CHRO: Can you tell us about the names of officials in charge of the camps and how they behaved in terms of treating the prisoners?
Than Hnin: Captain Soe Win was in charge of the Camp. Just below him were one lieutenant and a 2nd lieutenant. I can’t remember the names of the rest officials. They all are from the Jail Department under the Ministry of Home Affairs. All of them are heavy drinkers. The worst thing is that we got beaten up whenever they were intoxicated. Capatian Soe Win was a very violent and brutal person and so were the rest officials.
CHRO: Can you give us a sense of how you keep up with in the prison?
Thang Hnin: We didn’t have to work in both Haka and Kaley Prisons. However, once we landed in the Saya San Hard Labor Camp, we realize that there was hardly any chance a person would survive.
CHRO: Can you tell us a little bit about your experience and how difficult was the work there in the Camp.
Thang Hnin: There are many things to say about. I don’t know how to even describe. But to describe it in brief, there were over 450 prisoners in the Saya San Hard Labor Camp, most of whom were Burmese Amy deserters. Inmates from Monywa and Kaley prisons were usually sent to this camp to serve hard labor sentence.
CHRO: What sort of work did you do?
Thang Hnin: The most common work was digging drains for irrigations, digging soils, ploughing & tilling rice fields, cutting firewood and preparing char coals. The paddy fields we ploughed were primarily for their own use and the jail officials often sold the rice for their personal ends. Charcoals that we made were also for the personal use of the jail officials. Since there were no oxen or buffalos available for the tilling, three people have to pull the yoke like animals.
CHRO: What is the time of your work hours and how do you keep up with that?
Thang Hnin: We never had a rest time. Between 4-5 a.m. in the morning, they conducted regular checks to make sure everyone is present. Beginning from 5 a.m. we work until 12 noon. We are given a breakfast break at 12 noon and the work resumed at 1 p.m and lasted until 5 in the evening. The work proceeds even on Sunday. Even sick people are not allowed to take a rest. We are whipped if we take even a short break during the work. We had to rush to work if called even when we are having meals. We can’t rest no matter how hot the sun is or no matter how hard it rains. It makes things even more difficult as our feet are chained with a two-Kilo-weigh manacle. The shackles remained fastened on our feet from the day we landed in the camp until we got out. It remained attached to our feet wherever we are – during work or at bedtime. We had to work even at night in preparation for the arrival of high officials from Rangoon. I remember the Home Minister and Deputy Home Minister visiting our camp on separate occasions. There were other high officials visiting the camp but I can’t remember their names.
CHRO: What type of food were you fed in the Camp?
Thang Hnin: The foods we received were nothing better than those we usually feed pigs with. The rice was half un-husked and husked grain mingled together. Everyone received only a handful each. We have no more to eat than just a handful of those. We never had curry or soup to go with the food. There is nothing else to express than it was very very bad.
CHRO: Do you receive any medical treatment when you are sick?
Thang Hnin: No, not at all. We have to work even when we are sick not to mention the medical treatment. They wouldn’t let us rest just because we are sick. Sometimes people took a rest out of exhaustion from sickness. But as soon as the guard discovered them they whipped them and beat them up. Many prisoners died from this. There was absolutely no medicine to be seen in the camp.
CHRO: How many prisoners do you think died while you were in the camp
Thang Hnin: About 70 of them died in only the three-month period that I was there. It was almost an average of one person per day that died in three months. There might even have been more deaths that I didn’t know of.
CHRO: What was the most common cause of death?
Thang Hnin: How on earth could a human being endure those kinds of conditions? The work was extremely hard and the food was extremely bad, and in addition we couldn’t rest during sickness and there were no medical treatment. Everyone was just waiting to die.
CHRO: How were they buried after they died?
Thang Hnin: They were buried in a grave of about one foot deep. After about one week, the smells of the corpses attracted strayed dogs and pigs and the bodies are mutilated and eaten up by these animals. It was extremely sad to see this situation. The relatives were usually informed of the death but with a different story. They said that the prisoners died of sickness after being carefully treated in hospital. It was just a bunch of lies that the relatives were informed of. I wonder how could they lie with such things while we never even saw medicines. (Note: While talking about this he becomes too emotional).
CHRO: Was there any discrimination in the camp on ground of religion?
Thang Hnin: Absolutely! There was no room for people like me who are Christians. We were told that once we were in the prison we ought to follow the Burman religion, Buddhism.
CHRO: Wasn’t there any way in which you could be eased from doing hard works?
Thang Hnin: It was only the question of whether we have money or not. Money can do anything. If someone had more than 50,00 Kyats to give to the authorities, then he is made a Section Commander, which means that he no longer had to work. If someone from among the prisoners wanted to be an Office Staff, he had to pay 500,00 Kyats to the authorities. Anyone being able to pay that amount is automatically made the Office Staff. (Note: There are 10 Office Staffs in the Camps with half the number being from the Jail Department and another half from among the prisoners).
CHRO: How did you escape?
Thang Hnin: I simply could no longer bear the conditions that I took the risk to escape. It was on the night of 29th January 2000 after everyone was asleep when I made the escape. I was among those lucky enough to be an Office Staff; I fled while there was nobody in the Office.
CHRO: Where did you flee?
Thang Hnin: I fled to the Indian side. Our camp was located just one mile away from the Indian border and I just ran desperately towards the border until I reached Manipur State. I stayed in Manipur with one of the local families for eight months. I did not even speak the local language so I had to use body language and gesticulations to communicate with them. After eight months I came here to Aizawl of Mizoram State.
CHRO: Had there been any other prisoners who escaped like you did?
Thang Hnin: There had been many incidents in the past where prisoners tried to escape because they could no longer bear the conditions. But there were many people who are not lucky enough and were recaptured. Only a few of them had been lucky enough to survive from the beatings and torture after being recaptured. Most of them died from the torture. Those who survived these tortures were usually given additional one year prison term.
CHRO: Can you give us a picture of how you lived in the camp?
Thang Hnin: There are three prison hostels. When we sleep, there was no space left so as to be able to stretch our legs. But when we tried to bend our legs, again the space become too tight for us. There were two minor prisoners who are under 18. Most of us were between the ages of 20 to 40. If we want to shit, we have to do it in an open atmosphere where every sees us.
CHRO: How do you plan to move on?
Thang Hnin: The future is too grim. Everything is like closed for me. I don’t know how I am going to look after my wife and my children.
Night Watch Duty By Civilian Persists In Town In Chin State
Since mid 1997, civilians in northern Chin State’s Thantlang town have been regularly forced by the Burmese Army to do night watch duty. The duty does not spare even lone widows, according to information received from Thantlang.
The civilian sentry duty was enforced in 1997 by the Army in the wake of the National Student Sport Festival in Hakha to ensure security in the urban areas. Thantlang town is divided into seven blocks in which one sentry post is built in each block where four civilians from each block have to do the sentry duty every night. This duty goes on a rotating basis and lone widows who can not perform the duty by themselves have to hire one able person for Kyats 80 per night. A mandatory fine of money is imposed on those who fail to do the duty, said ( name omitted for security reason ) who is a student in Thantlang. The duty starts as soon as it is dark and lasts until dawn. The soldiers are conducting a regular and surprise check during the night to ensure people are doing their duty carefully. If they found out that someone is dozing off while on duty, the soldiers severely beat and punish that person.
Households who can afford to pay Kyats 10,000 to the Block Peace and Development Council are exempted from the duty for one year. Block PDC members themselves are required to do separate duty every night at each Block PDC Office. Though the citizens of Thantlang are greatly disappointed over the forcible duty imposed on them, they are left with no choice but to continue to perform the duty as they are afraid of the army authorities.
Army Authorities In Chin State Imposed Levy On Farmers
Name Laipa ( Name change )
Occupation: LPDC chairman and farmer
Marital Status: Married with 4 children
Address: ++++village, Falam Township, Chin State
Date of Interview: 14/01/2001
Some months ago, Township Peace and Development Council chairman in Falam summoned a meeting where he invited all Village PDC chairmen in the township and informed us that the government would no longer allow shifting cultivation in the area with immediate effect. He told us that anyone continuing the shifting cultivation would be arrested and imprisoned and that the shifting cultivation would be replaced by wet cultivation. We all pleaded to him that since most people do not have fields to do the wet cultivation without the current shifting form of cultivation, we would have nothing to eat and would all die. He said that he would allow us to continue the shifting cultivation under one condition-that everyone doing it would pay Kyats 60 to the authorities.
Therefore, for the year 1999-2000 every household pays kyat 60 each to the authorities in return for their permission. There are 10 villages in the Zahau village tract all of which have to pay the same amount to the authorities. They are Haimual, Thipcang, Hnathial (a), Hnathial (b), Zawngte, Ngailan, Seilawn, Sih Ngai, Tlang Kawi, Leilet village.
There are 40 households in our village and we paid Kayts 2,400 altogether regardless of the household is a widow. For the year 2000-2001, we were told that we have to pay another Kyats 60 per household. We have already cleared the site for cultivation, but if we do not pay the money then we would not be allowed to proceed. We are also fearful of arrest and imprisonment.