Maungdaw, Arakan State: Compulsory labor is on the rise in Northern Arakan for the boundary fencing project with Bangladesh, since March 6, a businessman from Maungdaw South said on condition of anonymity.
The concerned authorities have been building up stocks of cement bags, iron rods, iron chains and other necessary materials for the fencing, by carrying them by boat from Sittwe(Akyab) to Maungdaw Township. Besides, some workers (Rakhine and Rohingya), including engineers and masons were also brought to Maungdaw from Sittwe (Akyab), the capital of Arakan State.
 
On March 5, the authority brought two bull-dozers to Maungdaw Town; one of them sank in the river near Nolbonia village, while crossing a river bridge. To pull out the bulldozer from the river, the authority forced nearby villagers to build a dam across the river to block the tide, so that the bulldozer could be prevented from turning rusty. Besides, all water pumps of the villages had been carried to the spot to pump out the water from the river.  So, many villagers were forced to work on the river side, said another villager.
 
Some army personnel were also deployed in Maungdaw Township and they entered the villages and took away goats, fowls and vegetables from the villagers, without paying any money.
 
The villagers were asked to provide 15,000 bricks per village tract, from Maungdaw Township for fencing, a schoolteacher from the locality said. 
 
Regarding the fencing, on March 14, an army officer from Military Operation Commands (MOC)-15 of Buthidaung Township visited Maungdaw Township and observed the fencing situation. 
 
The authority has asked for laborers from villages through the VPDC members, to work for the project, to unload the cement bags and iron chains needed for the fencing, from the boats.
 
The concerned authority has ordered to provide laborers from nearby villages, to work daily for the project, where the authority would pay wages as per their work.
 
The project is being run by the Burmese border security force, or Nasaka and the local Arakanese people including Rohingya and Rakhine. They are going to build pillars with iron rods, cement and concrete.
 
The authority is going to fence from Anguemaw of Rathedaung Township to Amtahla of Maungdaw Township, through the bank of the Naff River on the Burmese side.
 
According to a village elder, forced labor will increase in future for fencing near the Burma-Bangladesh border. He also asked why the Burmese government was trying to fence the Burma-Bangladesh border, which required a lot of money, while it was facing a financial crisis.