HURFOM: Eleven villages in Karen state have been forced provide unpaid porters for the Burmese army, says a HURFOM field reporter in the area.
On January 1st Column No. 2 of Light Infantry Battalion No. 284, lead by captain Myo Zet Tun and Infantry Battalion No. 548 ordered every village to provide 15 men to carry supplies. The porters were required to bring food, munitions and other materials from Ah Zin to Mae Ka Tee, a distance of about 5 kilometers. The men were required to work from January 4 to 13th, without a day of rest.
Affected villages include Mae Ka Tee, Htaw Tha Nor Chanug Phyar, Mor Tha Ya, Htee Mae Bow, Htee Yo Chaung Phyar, Par Kalore Kee, Htee War Par Lu, Ah Zin Chaung Phya, Kalore Kee, Htee War Par Lu, and Ah Zin Chaung Phya.
The work was backbreaking, said a porter who spoke with HURFOM. And it kept him away from paid work that could support his family. “I could not finish cutting my paddy, and I could not bring the paddy home yet [because I was working as a porter],” said the man. “I had to leave the paddy there for long time and now it has been stolen.”
Other villagers said that the supplies are for an offensive the Burmese army is launching against the Karen National Union, an armed rebel group that has been fighting in the area for over six decades.
The offensive, they said, will bring more abuses. “Now more troops have arrived in our village and there are very strict rules about going out of the village,” said the source. “[Abuses like the recent portering] will not finish, more unpaid labor and restrictions will come to our village.