Human rights abuses are still being committed in the area of land confiscation on and around Kywe Thone Nyi Ma Island

August 16, 2011

HURFOM, Yebyu: The sources from Kywe Thone Nyi Ma Island reported that after confiscating 4000 acres of rubber plantation owned by ethnic Mon, the Burmese Navy Unit No.43, under the command of Ka Dike-based Government Navy Regional Command Headquarters, is still committing human rights abuses on the Kywe Thone Nyi Ma Island. The residents on the island face difficulties making a daily living, as they are forced to pay money if they can’t perform unpaid labor (which is known as Loh Ah Pay) for the Navy Unit No.43. Besides forcing them to work, the Navy Unit No.43 demands them to bring their own supplies and work materials. They also commandeer the villagers’ motorbikes.

Since last August, the Burmese Navy Unit No.43, have been forcing the villagers from Moe Kyi, Lae Kyi, and Kywe Thone Nyi Ma villages, Yebyu Township, Tenasserim Division, to perform unpaid work (or Loh Ah Pay). Apart from the villagers from the western and eastern parts of Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village, the villagers from nearby Moe Kyi and Lae Kyi villages are also forced to do unpaid work.
In an interview on August 11, Nai Sorn, 48, who lives in Moe Kyi village and works on an orchard, gave details on how the villagers are forced to do Loh Ah Pay:

“We, the villagers from four villages, were given direct orders [to do Loh Ah Pay] by Captain Aung Kyaw Moe of the Burmese Navy Unit No.43, based on Kywe Thone Nyi Ma Island. The order was for 20 villagers and 10 grass cutters from each village [for use in Loh Ah Pay], and we, the villagers, have to bring our chopping hoes and knives [as well]. That’s to Ka Dike, the navy regional command headquarter, the place where we have to do Loh Ah Pay. The village head has to arrange for boats. We will be charged if we do not go [for Loh Ah Pay], so that is why we have to go. It’s been like this everyday [that we have to go] and it still goes on.”

According to Nai Sorn, he has had to leave his work behind and go for unpaid work twice already since the order came on August 3. He had to cut the grasses and bushes around the headquarters of Navy Unit No. 43, dig security ditches, and arrange land plots for the construction of servants’ house. He claims he was not given time for rest.

Nai Kyin Sein, whose 6-acre rubber plantation in the western part of Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village was taken over by Navy Unit No.43 claimed that, not only his but also his son, Mehm Nyan Sar, 24, has to work at the construction site at Navy Regional Command Headquarters.

“20 villagers from each village are demanded to do Loh Ah Pay at the Ka-dike headquarters, while of the 20 villagers from our village there must be 10 carpenters. It was ordered by Captain Ye Lin-htun. That’s why the village headman chooses us, my son and me, as we are capable of working at house buildings, since August 8. We had to set up poles for barracks construction and put bricks in order. We have to work there with our own meals. In addition to our own meals, we had to bring our own work materials. We did not want to do Loh Ah Pay there because our rubber plantation was taken over by that unit; but we had to because we’re afraid of the punishment. We did not want to work there at all. We will move out of this village to Ye township soon.”

According to villagers from the eastern part of Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village, in addition to going for Loh Ah Pay, they must give over their motorbikes for use by the Navy’s men and fill up the gas with their own money. Nai Kyaw Naing (not real name), 30, gave this account:

“Two motorbikes are commandeered by the Navy per day. In this village, there are about 30 motorbikes, and the bikes are taken by them in turn. We can see the navy men drive motorbikes without caring that the motorbikes are not theirs. We are given orders to fill up the gas with our own money. They started demanding two motorbikes per day on August 5. Other villages are not asked for motorbikes yet. I had to fill up a gallon of gas in my motorbike for them to use, and I myself had to take the bike back from their base.”

According to residents, the navy men from the western part of Kywe Thone Nyi Ma village explained that their superior officer, Captain Aung Kyaw Moe, ordered that they take the motorbikes to use to patrol for the village’s security and for their personal use during their term of service on the island.

It’s obvious that the use of Loh Ah Pay by the Navy Unit No.43 really affects the villagers’ income because they cannot do their own work. And as a result, they do not earn their daily wages, which is very important for their families’ survival. Worse yet, aside from being unable to work and earn money, they have to take their money from their savings to fill up gas in their motorbikes for the navy men to use. Therefore, it’s very frustrating for the villagers and puts great hardship on them.

According to HURFOM’s recently-published report, titled Burma’s Navy Attacks Civilians’ Livelihoods, the lives of villagers, whose lands – such as rubber plantations, orchards, and farms on the Kywe Thone Nyi Ma Island – were taken over, fell apart because they had depended on their lands heavily for their families’ income. Consequently, they became jobless and it really affected their livelihoods. However, they struggle on to make a living and to find jobs with daily wages. But their dreams of a stable life after losing their lands haven’t come true. Rather, the nightmares continue to block the way, leaving their lives in pieces. This is because now, besides having their lands seized and becoming unemployed, they face forced labor. They have to go for Loh Ah Pay, working for the Navy Unit No.43 without any pay, instead of finding jobs and working for themselves and their families.

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