Wednesday, 03 June 2020

Maungdaw, Arakan State: Burma’s border security force (Nasaka) is indiscriminately collecting toll from villagers, while the engineering army unit, which came to Maungdaw from other towns to monitor the erection of the fence along the Burma-Bangladesh border, is using forced labour of villagers of Maungdaw Township, said a local schoolteacher on condition of anonymity.

Since January 5, Nasaka personnel of Hossara Nasaka check-post of Maungdaw south have been arbitrarily collecting toll from villagers of Kunna Para village Tract (Thayei Kontan village tract). They are collecting Kyat 200 for 50 kg rice bags as toll from Theyei Kontan market. They also collect Kyat 5,000 per truck, which ply on the Maungdaw-Aley Than Kyaw road loaded with bamboos and other goods. The Nasaka are not authorized to collect toll from rice and trucks, the teacher added. 

Besides, the engineering army unit has been using forced labour of villagers for erecting the fence. Some of the troops have been staying in Daung Khali village of Nasaka area No.7 of Maungdaw Township to monitor the construction of the fence, said a local youth requesting not to be named. 

The army unit forcibly transported 40 villagers from nearby villages and sent them to the work site for five days. After five days, they were released and another 40 villagers were taken to the work site where barbed wire fence is being erected.  The forced labour was organized by local Village Peace and Development Council Chairmen. Villagers are not willing to work there because of harassment by the army though they get daily wages.

The army pays Kyat 2,500 to a laborer per day, while the daily wage is Kyat 2,000 in the open market. But, this money is not directly paid to the labourers but through the local VPDC Chairman, who pays only Kyat 1,250 per person per day, while the rest of the money is siphoned off, said a local businessman. 

The labourers do not dare to complain to the authorities.  This is especially happening in Theyai Kontan village tract where the VPDC Chairman is Harun (25), son of Md.Yasin. The VPDC Chairman in collaboration with Nasaka personnel is cheating the villagers, said a local trader on condition of anonymity.

“The Nasaka, the army and other authorities are only trying to fleece the Rohingya community, said a village elder.