Rambree: Residents in many villages in Rambree Township have been used by high authorities in Arakan State as forced laborers to repair motor roads throughout the township, said villagers.
Local residents said the local authority has forced villagers to reconstruct roads under the instruction of Colonel (retired) U Kyaw Khin, who is an elected representative from Rambree Township, as well as the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry in Arakan State.
A local elder said, ” U Kyaw Khin is now arriving in Rambree from Sittwe. He ordered the township municipal authority to use villagers as laborers in the road construction in the rainy season to avoid damage. So, local authorities have widely used villagers as forced labor in road construction.”
The municipal authority is now rebuilding three roads in Rambree Township using forced labor because there are no government funds budgeted for the work. The roads being rebuilt are Rambree – Kyauk Ni Maw Road, Rambree – Lay Daung Road, and Rambree – Kyauk Chaung Road.
“The authorities have forced villagers who are living in the villages located beside the motor roads to repair the roads. U Kyaw Khin told villagers that they have a duty to maintain the roads because the villagers use the roads every day,” the elder said.
The municipal authority has been working on rebuilding the roads for ten days. Since construction started, authorities have been using villagers as forced labor widely in road construction.
Another youth from a village said that village administrators summoned villagers to work on road construction whenever they are needed. Village administrators have been pressured by U Kyaw Khin to use villagers for labor.
According to sources, the Rambree – Kyauk Ni Maw Road was built by the government last year but the allotted budget was inadequate and suffered misappropriation by authorities. Villagers along the road had pay 7,000 to 10,000 kyat per family for the road construction.
An elected representative of Arakan state confirmed the authorities were using villagers as forced laborers in the reconstruction, as he received a complaint letter that was sent by the local villagers to the Arakan State government.
The local authority has also been collecting tolls from cars and motorbikes passing by on the roads. A car has to pay 1,000 kyat, while a motorbike has to pay 200 kyat, but no reason has been given as to why the authorities are collecting money from the vehicles.
The authority is continuing to use villagers as forced labor in road construction despite that the villagers complained to the state government, because no action has been taken against the abuse.