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SLORC's Arakan (report from ABYMU A
- Subject: SLORC's Arakan (report from ABYMU A
- From: brelief@xxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 13 Nov 1995 04:27:00
Subject: SLORC's Arakan (report from ABYMU Arakan)
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The economy of Rakhine state substantially depends upon the
agriculture, fishery and forestry sectors. But it is deplorable to
see all these sectors go under the absolute control of the
Burmese army. The way the army imposes control can only be
compared with that of a feudal lord so that one just wonders if
feudalism is not being revived in Burma by the junta, State Law
and Order Restoration Council (Slorc).
For every construction work, especially in developing the
ridiculously outdated infrastructure of the state, slave labour is
in widespread use so that a large number of able villagers leave
their homes in search of livelihood only to find a degrading
occupation and a life of endless misery. Homes broken and
hopes vanished, they find life contemptible. Utter poverty and
desolation finally take the youth to the fold of the army. Stray
youths as a last resort are compelled to join the army.
For recruitment, there are special military recruitment battalions
posted all across Rakhine. The method adopted to enlist is also
novel! Take the example of the Enlistment Battalion 376 based
at Kyauktaw town. Through appointed brokers who are paid
200 kyat for each recruit, the battalion collect the would- be
candidates and send them to Sittwe where they with candidates
from 16 other townships are rounded up.
On 30th April '95, on their way back from the recruitment drive
up the Kaladan River, the E.B. 376 ordered all the young girls
of Tharaktabang and five nearby villages together to accord a
formal welcome to the newly enlisted. The girls came no doubt,
but flatly refused to obey the orders. The military commander
did not expect such a curt denial. So the village leaders and
elders were given a sound dressing- down and warned of dire
consequences for any "such"' noncompliance in future.
CONFISCATION AND FORCED LABOUR:
Between April 20 and 28 the same month, the army seized three
thousand acres of privately owned rice paddies from the
villagers of Lanmadaw village under Kyauktaw township for an
artillery battalion centre to be constructed later. The
confiscation went without any compensation to the helpless
villagers, who for generations had been working on the soil. As
a part of the Artillery Centre project, a 120 feet wide and 4 mile
long highway across Lanmadaw - Tharaktabang road, running
right to Khaung-dok village in the north, was built. More than
thirty thousand people, at a rate of one person from each
household, were conscripted as slaves and forced to work there
with food on one's own.
In April the heat was scorching, and the corporals' behaviour
disgusting. As the plains dried up at that summer month, water
was scarce. For the thousands parching in the fierce sun
consumption of undrinkable water from roadside pools and
ditches was not only essential but also compulsory for survival.
In a short time therefore, enteric diseases broke out. The
immediate death toll was counted 280, while ten times more
caught the ailments and about one thousand or so are feared to
have died from the after-effects.
As usual, the Slorc shamelessly lied to the world at large that
the people came to offer their share of "Buddhist merit-
making" through voluntary labour. Well, Slorc junta, if the
poor Rakhine villagers made voluntary contribution of labour,
why did you engage those corporals of yours with arms in their
hands and foul language in their dirty mouths? To applaud the
charitable task of "Buddhist merit -making"?
The Slorc did not stop there. In the illegally confiscated
ground, common villagers and the previous owners were
intimidated into raising paddy, harvesting and carrying it to the
very silos made by timber, bamboos and labour supplied by the
In April 1992, an area of 1,800 acres of rice field was seized
from the villagers of Daung-daw-yo at Kyauktaw township for
the 376 Enlistment Battalion. The barracks and more than
ninety living quarters for the battalion were made by utilizing
slave labour. Till well through the end of 1994 slave labour
was used to procure timber and bamboo, and to fulfil their
Loss of paternal land meant loss of livelihood and a life in ruins
for the villagers. But it also meant a great achievement of the
Slorc's part in materializing their concerted effort to wipe out
the identity of the ethnic Rakhines by bringing them to begging.
The battalion's greed did not stop there. Soon they confiscated
all the ponds in the nearby villages. As behooves the Burmese
army, the villagers were forced to supply the workers for the
fisheries of the army. Till the catching and selling of the fish
the villagers had to work from sunrise to sunset, without any
wages paid to any of them. The leftover small fishes could not
be sold so the village young girls were summoned to clean them
and put them to dry. By the end of the day those girls who had
no husbands were detained for the night.
Likewise in the dairy, livestock and poultry projects taken up
for the families of the Burmese army posted everywhere in the
state, wholesale slave labour is used. All the nearby villagers
are forced to supply the quota of feeds and fodders by turn
besides attending the chicken, pigs and cattle of the battalion.
Village girls are forced to work there routinely and subjected to
physical assault and gang rape.
Between April and June 1993, irrigation canal projects were
implemented at Kyauktaw township. In most of the projects
embankments of an average height of 15 feet had to be
constructed to connect natural hills and hillocks for the purpose.
But the embankments were of different lengths; Gara Hill
embankment runs 300 feet, Mintha- chaung Creek embankment
above 1,000 feet. To force to work harder, the corporals of
Battalion 376 acted like feudal taskmasters over the impressed,
maiming and grievously injuring dozens of the helpless
villagers. When the closing ceremony was to be held the
battalion arranged a grand gala. On the day when TV crew
would come and the project would be opened, soldiers were
engaged in a manner as if they had been working all along. The
entire show was videotaped for a nationwide broadcasting. The
military official in charge of the related department of irrigation
in his address made it public that a total of 1.2 million - kyat
was spent to implement the entire project! Only on that very
moment in April 1995 people could know the truth at the grand
gala opening of the irrigation project arranged at Pajaingchaung
that, they had been had! By that time there was nothing left to
air their grievances, not one little proof! No outlet of
resentment would have been tolerated by the gun toting military
demons, so silence was obviously the golden rule!
The same method of immensely notorious exploitation and
oppression was used to build Kyatiktaw -Paletwa road between
1991 and 1994.
Confiscation of one thousand acres of paddy fields and
horticultural hills of Lanmadaw under Kyauktaw township by
battalion 374 also carries a similar story. Stationed at
Kyauktaw sugar mill, this battalion is still taking oppressive
and repressive measures on the local Rakhines.
Paving- stones for the roads mentioned earlier were quarried
from sites up the river Lemro. The stones and boulders were
then loaded on boats requisitioned from the public owners. The
whole process was done by slave labour.
As the army taskmasters goad on to hurriedly load the stones,
the wooden boats (mechanized and unmechanized) are often
cracked and damaged, causing great loss to the owners. To be
careful at loading, the army commanders and the labourers are
usually bribed. All the villages along the river had to supply
the cost of the labour and bear the conveyances.
In the last seven years the Slorc junta have aimed their every
effort to crush the economy of Rakhine and destroy the
economic viability of the Rakhine nationals.
COMMUNICATIONS AND POWER
The power sector for the state can hardly meet the demands of
its 17 towns, while not one single village is provided with
electricity. Government generators produce about 2% of the
actual demand and that is also for a few hours in the evenings,
as it was done during the British rule.
For the communications sector, the roads of Rakhine have
always been poorly built and maintained. A mere 56 miles of
earth road and about and equal distance of rock surfaced roads
serve the road communication of the entire northern part of the
state. Dilapidated jitneys and rickety trucks carry passengers
on these roads taking a traveler into a journey of time warp.
The waterways offer much of the communications needed for
the state. Yet the fleet of the Government Inland water
transport department consist only of nine motor launches,
including three twin- deck remodeled versions of the Second
World War vessels trudging at 5 knots an hour, and one twin-
deck launch with a speed of 7 knots an hour. Though there is a
demand for better and larger vessels, the public sector have not
been able to come up with any investments since the absolute
control by the military has made it financially unproductive.
Therefore ancient rowing boats are heavily depended upon so
that perishables can hardly bring enough money for the farmers
and fishermen. The government vessels ply two days a week on
Sittwe- Ann line, once a week on Sittwe-Taungup, three days a
week on Sittwe- Buthidaung, and twice a week on Sittwe-
With military strategy in mind Pyay- Taunggup, Minbu- Ann,
and Ngathaingchaung- Gwa roads were built previously. Very
poor conditions of these roads and dominance of military
control have made these roads not much- usable by the public.
Since 1991 a big brickfield has been set up at the Mahamuni.
The poor Rakhine villages have been impressed to work there
without pay and without food. The villagers are also forced to
collect firewood for the purpose.
SLAVE LABOUR IN SITTWE
The cross channel dam Project on the Aung- dainy river of
Sittwe were taken up in October 1994 by the Slorc. The
purpose has been to rear shrimp on commercial basis for the
For the completion of the Project every family of Sittwe
township has to offer one worker's slave labour at least three
times in a year. The Penalty in case of no- show is kyat 350.
While working the towns people are subjected to rough
behaviour of the soldiers. If by any chance any one tries to
move a little while eating for convenience, he or she is quickly
given a kick on the head. Such instance of cruelty have made
many People maimed, blinded, or seriously wounded. Through
the work is temporarily stopped for the monsoon, it will be
taken up as soon as the rain ceases, our correspondent added.
The army, so hungry for information, pay 30 kyat for each
piece of news to every informer they appoint throughout that
state. People of every profession and religion are used for this
In recent months about 1,000 oppressed villagers have fled their
homes and made their ways through formidable jungles into
India (Mizoram state). As Bangladesh is not much willing to
accept and provide help to the Buddhist Rakhine refugees (in
contrast with the Rohingya Muslim refugees), the escape to
Bangladesh is still insignificant.
extracts reported by
ALL BURMA YOUNG MONK'S UNION