Villagers accuse Burma Army of forced labor abuses

Villagers living along the Tavoy-Kanchanaburi Highway linking Burma to Thailand accuse Burma Army soldiers of demanding they provide trucks to transport foods and munitions for the military.

Burma Army battalions under Coastal Command headquarters based at Myitta Sub Township, Tavoy, in the Tenasserim Division have since January this year ordered villagers from Sin Phyu Dai, Wartaw, Amo, Htee Htar, Maw Htar, and Htee Khee villages to use their trucks to move military equipment.

A local villager – for security reasons did not want to be named – told Karen News.
“They [Burma Army] always demand our villager truck when they are sending munitions. They [Burma Army] can use their [army’s] car freely because of the ceasefire with the KNU.”

According to a local resident, villagers continue to face ongoing and regular force labor demands by Light Infantry Battalion 401, under the command of Lt.Colonel Myint Toe, from Military Operations Command 8 based at Wartaw village.

Last week villagers from Wartaw claim they had to provide five trucks on March 6 for Infantry Battalion 280 commander, Lt.Colonel Khin Maung Lat, to travel to Htee Khee camp near the border area.

Villagers from six villages under Myitta, Myin Khan Baw, and Phaung Taw village tracts were ordered by Coastal Command headquarters in Tavoy, on Janaury 20th to provide 85 boats to carry Burma Army rations from Myitta to Kyak Htone camp.

A Karen National Union, Brigade 4 military officer told Karen News.
“We are concerned for our security as the Burma Army is taking advantage now. They have started to note our positions of our base camps as under the ceasefire arrangements they can freely travel in our area. They’ve started to put their soldiers close to our soldiers, and we can do nothing about it.”

The KNU’s peace talk delegation met with Burma government representatives on January 12 at Hpa-an town in Karen State where the KNU had reached a preliminary ceasefire agreement with the government at the State level.

Since the ceasefire Karen villagers say the Burma Army still extorts force labor of them. Battalions under Division 66 of the Burma Army in Bawgali area, Taungoo Township ordered villagers with motorcycles and taxi motorcycles to deliver army rations.

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