Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Burma: Border security force has been using forced labour for paddy cultivation since 1992

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Burma’s border security force (Nasaka) has been using forced labour by villagers for paddy cultivation since 1992 after setting up Nasaka camps in Maungdaw Township, said a local farmer.

Since 1992, about 50 acres of arable land of Rohingya villagers from Maung Nama village in Maungdaw Township were seized by Nasaka for setting up camps and other purposes. About 20 acres were used for camps, and another 20 acres are in use for paddy cultivation after being leased to villagers. They have been collecting 20 Taung of paddy (one Taung = 14 kg) per 0.40 acre from the leased land. In the rest 10 acres paddy is cultivated every year with forced labour from Rohingya villagers.

The villagers have to till the lands to grow paddy seedlings or saplings to grow paddy with their own cattle without any support from Nasaka. The villages have to nurture the paddy saplings until harvest and reap the ripe paddy, said another farmer.

But, this year, the Nasaka ordered villagers, who leased lands from Nasaka to grow paddy to provide 28 Taungs per 0.40 acre instead of 20 Taungs. They increased eight Taungs per Kani (0.40) acre. Villagers will have to give this paddy by December 20. Those failing will be punished according to the law, said a lessee.

Farmers are not willing to give extra paddy to the Nasaka, as the paddy yield is not good this year.

The villagers are used as forced labour for portering, in construction, in maintenance and serving in military camps, and other works for the army, work on agriculture (growing seasonal vegetables), in projects undertaken by the authorities or the military, sometimes for private individuals, in construction and maintenance of roads and in building bridges, said a local trader.

Use of forced labour is wide spread, especially by the Nasaka and the Burmese Army. Since 1962, the Burmese military has oppressed the political opposition, whether in the country’s urban areas, where political parties are most active or in rural areas where the ethnic nationality groups predominate, said a schoolteacher from Maungdaw.

Though the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the world community pressurizes the military junta, they have been using forced labour across the country, but have reduced it a little, said a local trader on condition of anonymity.

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