Human rights group say Burma Army abuses continue

A report by the Karen Human Rights Group accuses the Burma Army of extorting, forced labour and bribes from villagers in the Toungoo district.

The report placed civilians into two categories. Those that lived in areas under Burma Army control, and those that didn’t. According to statistics released by the KHRG, civilians in the former category were much more likely to face abuse than the latter category.

The villagers living in territory near Burma Army camps often faced being used as forced labour. Villagers from these areas, in interviews with the KHRG, accused the Burma Army of forcing them to perform hard labour, such as cutting bamboo, clearing vegetation from roads to free-up for military convoys, and to carry food and other supplies for Burma Army units.

The villages of Kler La, Kaw Thay Der, Kaw Soh Hkoh, Maw Pah Der, Klaw Mee Der, Play Hsa Loh, Shgah Say Boh, Hker Weh, K’Thaw Pweh, and Htaw Hta Saw are all located near Burma Army positions.

The KHRG noted that these villagers “have to carry food for the Burmese Army, be messengers for military units, cut bamboo, and clear vegetation from the vehicle road.”

The KHRG reported also stated that villagers are ordered to many menial tasks for the military against their will.

“They have to do many things for the Burmese Army and because of this, citizens who stay under the control of the Burma Army have complained. In addition, if the Burmese Army demands something the villagers have to give it.”

KHRG found that access to food remains a serious and unstable one for many people living in the Toungoo District. Villagers who farm plantations are often used as forced labour, a serious issue hampering the local economy.

“The villagers have to work for the Burmese Army so they do not have time to do their own jobs and fruit often goes rotten. The situation is not stable so the price goes up. The price rises year by year.

Furthermore, if the weather is not good, so a lot of plantations have gone rotten. It has caused difficulties for the citizens.”
The KHRG report said that villagers that live in non-government controlled areas are also in fear for their lives.

“For these people to go and buy things, they have to obtain a written permission document. If they don’t do that, and are seen, they face being tortured by the Army.”

KHRG identified six checkpoints on the Kler La vehicle road, that citizens traveling through have to negotiate payment, as soldiers at the checkpoints demand money from them. If a motorbike driver travels there, people often have to pay anywhere from 500 kyat ($US 0.65) to 1,000 kyat ($US 1.30) at each gate. Motorbike drivers also have to have written permission to travel: One document every time they travel. Each document costs 1,000 kyat.

In addition, the Burma Army sometimes closes roads that are used by villagers to transport rice. For people to be allowed to transport rice, they have to pay anything up to one million kyat (US $1,298.7).

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