Forced labor increasing in Maungdaw

Kaladan Press, 12 January 2011,

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Forced labor is increasing in Maungdaw Township. Burma’s Border Security Force (Nasaka) has been forcing villagers to work on road construction projects since earlier this month, said a local elder who declined to be named.

For instance, every day since January 8, many villagers from Nasaka area No. 5 and 6 have had to go to work building roads along the fence line, supplying their own food. The villagers have to get up from bed around 2 am and beginning cooking food in order to reach the work site by 4 a.m. Man villagers must reach the work site in row boats from their villages, the elder added.

There are 22 villages in Nasaka area No. 5 and five villages in Nasaka area No. 6, including one Arakanese village. From every house, one person must go to the work site, excluding widows and handicapped villagers. Some villagers who pay 10,000 kyat per family to the Nasaka are also excluded from going to the work site, said another local trader who asked not to be named.

The road along the fence of Burma-Bangladesh border had already been completed, but the authorities now want to extend the width another 18 feet along the road. As a result, forced labor from villagers is immediately needed to work on the road again, the trader added.

Besides, in Maungdaw South, in Nasaka area No. 7, villagers of Aley Tan Kyaw, U Daung, Tharay Kon Dan, Kunna Para and Korza Bill, etc. are also engaged in forced labor in construction of roads along the fence site, since January 1. Earlier, the concerned Nasaka commander provided 1,000 kyat per worker, but later villagers stopped receiveing any money. It has been learnt that the commander along with the local Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) Chairman misused the money for own their purposes, said a businessman from Maungdaw South.

In the meantime, the villagers under the control of Nasaka Headquarters of Kawar Bill of Maungdaw Township are forced to provide wooden logs for baking bricks at the headquarters. However, the villagers are free from forced labor for road construction.

At the same time, GE (Engineering Corps) personnel have come to Maungdaw Township and are forcing villagers to build local roads in the villages, an aide to the Nasaka said on condition of anonymity.

A local youth said, “Villagers are barred from doing work to support their own family members as daily they have to go to the work site for road construction without receiving any support.â€

A local politician said that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) continue harassment and systematic human rights violations against the Rohingya community to weaken their will to resist and survive. Continued human rights violations have driven more Rohingya people from Burma to take refuge in Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia, and as IDPs within Burma.

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