Villagers along the Ye to Tenasserim Division road forced to make road repairs

October 16, 2008

HURFOM : Southern Ye Township:
Residents of villages along the Ye to Tennasserim Division road are being forced to work as unpaid laborers, say local sources. Beginning in the first week of October, Captain Yae Lin Oo from Infantry Battalion No. 31 began forcing households in Han-Gan, Chan-Gu, Dot-Pound, Toe-Tat-Ywa-Thit, Yin-Ye, Yin-Dein and Mi-Htaw-Hlar Lay villages, in Ye Township, Mon State, to make road repairs and clear brush.

Captain Ye Lwin Oo ordered the headmen of each village to organize villagers into work groups, and gave them responsibility for repairs to sections of the road. Laborers have to clear brush and small trees from the sides of the road. They also have to fill in pot holes and ruts with soil dug from the sides of the road.

Each of the villages is home to around two hundred households, and every household is required to provide one person to assist the project. Laborers must bring their own food and tools, as well as pay transportation costs if they live far away from their assigned section.

IB No. 31 has conscripted villagers in the past, but has usually given households the option of paying to hire a replacement laborer rather than provide a family member. This time, however, a HURFOM source in Han-Gan says villagers do not have such a choice. The same source reported that some families have been forced to send children to do the work.

Most villagers in the area are farmers, and the forced labor is monopolizing their time during a crucial harvest period. “Villagers are very busy with their own work because they have to harvest crops and clear their gardens. But now people have to leave their work to do the unpaid forced labor,” said a HURFOM field reporter in the area.

“My betel nut harvest is ready to be collected. If we wait, we will be late and thieves will steal the nuts. I will lose my income. Instead of working on my farm, I have to do unpaid work,” a farmer told HURFOM.

According to a village headman in the area, the road repairs are the result of a recent visit by Maj-Gen Thar Aye aka Tha Aye, Chief of Bureau of Special Operations 4 (Karen State, Mon State and Tennasserim Division). During the visit, Maj-Gen Thar Aye is reported to have admonished officers in control of the area for not maintaining the roads.

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