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20 May 1996


In April 1996, over 20 forced labourers died, and many were seriously 
injured, in landslides at two worksites on the 100-mile-long Ye-Tavoy 
railway construction route in Ye Byu township, Tenasserim Division.  Over 
50 forced labourers have already died in similar accidents in the last 
four months.

During the landslide at the 30-Mile forced labour camp worksite on 6 
April 1996, 4 people died, including a middle-school girl who was 
forcibly recruited from Chaung Wa Pyin village in That-Yet Chaung 
township, and 5 were seriously injured.  Similarly, 11 forced labourers 
died and 10 were seriously injured in a landslide at Ye Bone forced 
labour camp worksite on 12 April.  Most of the casualties were from lower 
Ye Byu village in Long Lon township.  Some of the bodies of the dead 
could not be recovered as they were buried under an avalanche of earth.  
As the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) authorities 
continue to routinely use forced labourers instead of machines at 
worksites for construction of the Ye-Tavoy railway, the number of deaths 
resulting from landslides are increasing.  A local resident has said that 
SLORC authorities have never yet paid compensation to survivors or 
families in cases of injury or death.

Over the course of this past dry season, SLORC authorities opened 11 
forced labour camps along the railway route in Ye Byu township.  They are 
now using over 15,000 forced labourers from That Yet Chaung, Long Lon, Ye 
Byu, and Tavoy townships on construction in Tavoy district every day.  
Troops from SLORC LIBs (Light Infantry Battalions) 406, 407, 408 and 410 
monitor the daily work at the sites.  Local people must bring their own 
food and drink to the camps during their bi-monthly 14-day rotations.  
People wishing to avoid service must pay a 2,000 kyats fine to the local 
ward authorities or LORC (ward Law and Order Restoration Council).

The seasonal rains have now begun, heralding the start of a time of 
aggravated morbidity and mortality in the camps, especially from 
malaria.  200 people have died of malaria during construction over the 
last four months.  The threat from diarrhoeal diseases also rises 
dramatically during rainy season.  A local source said that ill labourers 
are allowed to return home only if they can find others to replace them 
at the worksite.

ABSDF News Agency
All Burma Students' Democratic Front (Dawn Gwin)