Monday, 10 August 2020

Buthidaung, Arakan State: The Burmese Army is using forced labour and extorting money from villagers of Mogh Bill village, Buthidaung Township for construction of a new primary school as part of a development programme in northern Arakan, said a former schoolteacher requesting anonymity.
 
The Buthidaung District Peace and Development Council (DPDC) Chairman received kyat 7 million from a Rohingya businessmen of Rangoon for the school when a Rohingya delegation visited northern Arakan accompanied by the Deputy Home Minister Phone Swe on May 20, said one of the village Chairmen on condition of anonymity.
 
A Major from the Military Operation Command (MOC) - No.15 has been assigned to build the school. The new school is being built after demolishing the old one and by using forced labor from nearby villagers.
 
According to a local villager, everyday, 30 to 40 villagers have to work the construction site without any wages for the last 30 days. But, only one skilled worker brought from Buthidaung Town is being paid wages. He has to mix sand, cement and stones in proportion, said a trader from the locality.
 
Besides, the military officer or contractor is collecting kyat 10,000 to 20,000 per family from villagers in keeping with their financial status for the construction of the school.  The Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) Chairman was forced to pay kyat 200,000, according to a local elder. 
 
Though the authorities received money for the construction of the school, the local authorities are using forced labour free of cost and collecting money from villagers. This is unacceptable to the Rohingya community. Most of the money will line the pockets of the contractor or the army. The army has no defence work, but they have been working at harassing the Rohingya community. All the business is controlled by the army directly or indirectly, said a businessman who declined to be named. 
 
In addition, on a daily basis, villagers have to provide 10 to 30 labourers to the nearby army battalion. They have to work in the camp from 8 am to 5 pm taking food from home, he added.
 
This is the time when villagers have no work to support their family members while they face restriction of movement. In such a situation, villagers are forced to work in the military camps or have to work to serve the army, the businessman further said. 
 
However, the international community, the ILO (International Labour Organization) is pressurizing, to the Burmese military junta to stop forced labour across the country, the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) authorities do not comply with the request. But, SPDC authorities have declared that there is no forced labour in the country.