Buthidaung: The Burmese military junta has been using a new tactic for forced labor in Arakan State in order to avoid pressure from the ILO and international community, said a teacher from Buthidaung.
The teacher said, “Now the authority has changed the way it uses forced labor cleverly to avoid international pressure. Many villagers in our area were summoned by authorities to work at government projects with payment. But in reality, the authority never pays money to them for their wages.”
Recently, authorities began using this system in the construction of two model villages in Buthidaung Township, 80 miles north of Sittwe. The new villages are Shwe Natala and Shwe Hin Tha.
“Nasaka border security forces summoned villagers and carpenters to work on construction of the two model villages near Nyung Chaung Village with wages. The Nasaka officials promised to pay 1,500 kyat a day per worker. But villagers have yet to receive any payment since the completion of the village construction,” the teacher added.
Many villagers from Nyung Chaung and Do Den Villages in Buthidaung Township were subjected to this new tactic to coerce them into working on construction of the two model villages. A villagers from Nyung Chaung who did work on the construction said, “The authority constructed two model villages near Nyung Chaung Village quickly for Burman settlers. For the villages, the authority summoned many villagers from the surrounding areas to work on construction of the villages with payment. I was working there about 20 days but have not received any wages from the authority.”
He also added, “When we went to the Nasaka camp to ask for our payment, the Nasaka authorities refused us abusively and assaulted us. They told us if we disagreed we could go anywhere to complain. So many villagers who had worked as laborers on the construction gave up asking for money from Nasaka.”
The Nasaka authority used many villagers in the area for nearly two months to construct 180 houses in Shwe Natala and Shwe Hin Tha, which are located in southern Buthidaung near the western bank of the Mayu River.
179 Burman families from Burma proper arrived to settle the two model villages on 15 February, 2010, via two ferry ships that traveled from Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State. All of the families came from Rangoon.
The authority allocated three acres of farmland and two heads of cattle to each Burman family settling in the village, after confiscating the land from local villagers. Besides the time that many spent working without pay, many villagers also lost their land to the two model villages.