Burma Army battalions operating in the Tantabin Township, Taungoo District, Karen State area have forced villagers to work daily on a rotation to supply frontline bases.
A local villager told Karen News that Light Infantry Battalions 376, 541, 540 and 380, under the Military Operation Command 9, have been since the first week of November 2011 until now been forcing villagers to carry their food supplies.
The villager said.
“At least every day villagers have to follow the army bulldozers and carry food supplies – rice, fish paste, yellow bean, sugar, milk. We also have to carry military supplies for the Burma Army. The soldiers take security for the transportation of the supplies.”
The villager told Karen News that the Burma Army ordered villagers who had motorbikes to take their bikes, but for those who had no motorbike they had to go by foot and carry the military supplies in the same way.
The villager explained that the Burma Army threatened villagers that if they refused to work, the army would block the road from Ye Tho Gyi, Bawgali to Taungoo Town to restrict villagers travel. The road was the main travel route for villagers to earn their living from farms running alongside the road and to get access to the market in town.
Villagers complain that working for the Burma Army everyday, prevents them doing their own work on their farms and working for the army is dangerous as the heavy loads make it hard to drive the motorbikes on the rough roads.
Despite the Burma government having ‘peace talks’ with Karen National Union – human right violations such as forced labor, extortion and land confiscation is ongoing in Karen State. The Karen Human Right Group spokesperson, Saw Albert told Karen News that unless there is a concrete signed agreement, the human right violations will not stop.
“The current human right abuses will only stop if the government and the KNU reach an agreement and it is signed. If there is no agreement reached and signed as in the past, the human right abuses will continue.”
Local KNU officials say that 5,000 people from 12 villages have been forced to work for the Burma Army villages include Ye Tho Gyi, Bawgali and Thit Say Taung.
Villagers say they are scared of the Burma Army soldiers and that on December 24th 2011, troops from LIB 540 shot and killed Saw Ko Mya, 31, a villager from Khu Law village in Ye Tho Gyi area.