Villagers taken from 30 villages were ordered to work on the construction of the HteeLah Eh Hta Bridge that crosses the Yunzanlin River, near Papun Township.
The Karen Human Right Group’s report released on June 13, described how villagers from Meh Mwe, Day Wah, Kyaw Pah, Htee Th’Daw Hta and Meh Pree village were forced to construct the bridge. KHRG said the construction project was led by U Thuzana, the head monk at Myaing Gyi Ngu Monastery.
The government’s militia, the Border Guard Force 1014th was responsible for the security of the construction. The KHRG report claimed that the “villagers reported that they were ordered to provide both labor and money for two local projects. Villagers reported that they were ordered to provide both labor and money for two local
Speaking to Karen News, Saw Albert, a field director with KHRG said.
“On the first day of January, 184 villagers went for ‘voluntary’ work, but they had little choice, they couldn’t refuse to work. Villagers were fed three times a day. Villagers did not have time to do their own work.”
Saw Albert added that even though the villagers thought that the bridge would be finished in 6 months, it is a three-year project based on the KHRG’s research.
In the KHRG’s report, an in-charge of one of the village tracks was quoted saying, “If it is donation work, then it would be okay, if we do not go. But it is like you can’t stay [stay home] if you don’t go, so it is not donation [work] anymore.”
KHRG states in its report that it “relies upon the definition included in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Forced Labour Convention, which defines forced or compulsory labour as ‘all work or service that is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily’.”
KHRG report, that in January, a monk named Hkay Maung Win, from Meh Pree village tract demanded a one-million-kyat donation from seven villages for a Karen New Year celebration. In its report KHRG documents and lists each donation demanded of and given by each specific village. The KHRG report stated the following.
“On January 12nd 2013, an anonymous T— villager told the KHRG community member that one monk, named Hkay Maung Win, based in Meh Pree village tract, Bu Tho Township, planned a New Year celebration in Htoo Wah place, which is known for its rubber plantation. He demanded that villagers from Htee Th’Daw Hta and Kyaw Pah village tracts send a total of 1,150,000 kyat (US $1,223) by January 13th. Each village was expected to provide a specified amount.”
Saw Albert said KHRG would continue to monitor the bridge construction in Papun.
“We will continue working on what we have started. We will watch the situation when the villagers are called to construct the bridge and will report the findings.”
The Karen Human Right Group is an independent organization and was formed in 1992 and they document and produce reports about human right violations inside Karen State and on March, 2013, they also contributed the report of “Losing Ground” which was about land grabbing in eastern Burma.