Battalions in Yebyu Township force villagers to repair dikes around military bases

November 10, 2008

HURFOM, Northern Yebyu Township

Farmers in northern Yebyu Township, Tennessarim Division are being forced to construct embankments for Burmese battalions stationed in their area, say local sources.

According to Nai Soe, 40, Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 282 began conscripting unpaid laborers from Alae Sakhan village on October 30th. Laborers from Alae Sakhan and at least two other villages are being forced to re-construct embankments that serve as dikes around battalion headquarters, said Nai Soe.

LIB No. 273 also appears to be conscripting villagers in the area, reported Nai Noe, 55, a resident of Ye town who recently traveled to Tavoy. On November 4th, Nai Noe told HURFOM that he saw approximately forty men near Own-Pin-Kwin village being led by an unknown captain from LIB No. 273, which is based near the village.

“I asked a Karen lady from the village why the Burmese Army gathered the men from this village,” said Nai Noe. “She said that the Burmese soldier collected these villagers to build the battalion’s barracks and dikes. Most of them are from Own-Pin-Kwin villagers.”

The forced labor comes at a time when farmers are struggling to complete their harvest during unseasonably heavy rains. “At this time, most farmers in the village are busy with their own jobs. Farmers have been harvesting their paddy and some are preparing their lands to grow soil beans and other crops,” said Nai Soe. “Now, most of them have to stop their farm works and instead build dikes for the battalion.”

LIB No. 282 is based at Mile 52, Klain-Aung Sub-township, named for its distance from Tennessarim’s capital, Tavoy City. According to a member of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) who is monitoring regime movements in Yebyu, Lieutenant Colonel Htin Kytaw Hlaing and Colonel Myo Swe are in command of LIB No. 282. “Colonel Myo Swe is an infamous man. He has committed plenty of abuses against the innocent villagers during the military offensives against Karen rebels eastern and northern Yebyu township,” said the NMSP member.

According to local sources, last winter LIB No. 273 also forced the nearby villagers to build an embankment near Ye Ngan-Gyi village, in Yebyu Township. Lieutenant Colonel Khin Maung Tun, from LIB No. 273, asked village chairmen from another three villages in the area to contribute the villagers’ labor in the construction sites.

“Last year, even women were forced to work on embankment re-constructions,” said a resident of Ye Ngan Gyi village. “Because most men in the villages were busy with their farms, women have to go contribute their labor.” village, Yebyu township, Tenasserim Division. LIB no. 282 has also been taking cattle and farming equipment from residents of Alae-Sakhan, says a resident.

*Some names in this story have been changed to protect HURFOM sources

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