Abducted villagers remain in captivity

Feb 4, 2010 (DVB), Seven villagers in central Burma remain in captivity after being abducted by the Burmese troops in December last year, while a neighbour claimed they had been forced into the army.

The men, who range in age from 20 to 40-years-old, were taken by Burmese troops from Battalion 83 during a pagoda festival in Magwe division's Sinbaungwe town on 9 December last year.

A local villager told DVB that their whereabouts has not been confirmed, but thought they had been forcibly abducted into the army.

Human rights groups have condemned the Burmese junta for ongoing use of forced labour and forced recruitment.

"The soldiers tied the men up and pulled them onto a [bullock] cart to force them into the battalion," said the villager.

He added that influential figures from the village of Than Min Aung, one of them men abducted, who went to the battalion to ask for his release were turned down by the battalion's commander.

"The commander said that the recruitment was nothing to do with him so he would not [approve] his release," he said.

Last month, soldiers from the same battalion abducted two underage boys from nearby Taungdwingyi town, allegedly after plying them with alcohol.

The boys were returned home after one of their family's paid 40,000 kyat [$US40] to the army officials. The incident subsequently made headlines in Burmese exiled media.

Officials from Battalion 83 were unavailable for comment.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in November last year that there had been a 50 percent rise in the number of complaints of forced labour and forced recruitment it had received since it began work in Burma in 2007.

The organization, is the only international body that has a mandate to tackle forced labour in Burma, last month extended an agreement with the Burmese government not to harass forced labour complainants.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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