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Jun 24, 2008 (DVB), Government authorities have forced unemployed people across Burma to work for low pay cultivating farmlands seized from cyclone victims in the Irrawaddy delta, according to locals.
A resident of Bogalay told DVB daily paid labourers from Mandalay had been brought to the township in military trucks in recent days by people wearing Union Solidarity and Development Association clothing to work on farmlands seized by the authorities after their owners were killed during the cyclone in May.
"Apparently the labourers were told they were to give assistance to farmers in devastated areas," said the Bogalay resident.
"The people are from Mandalay , the authorities demanded one person from each household in their neighbourhood."
He said government authorities had claimed ownership of farmlands left without owners after the cyclone but they have also been seizing land belonging to farmers who survived the cyclone.
"They were also seizing plots owned by farmers who are still alive, which are located in between the ownerless lands," he said.
He added that more labourers had been brought into the area from Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar township with a promise of 10,000 kyat for a day’s work, but they were only given 1000 kyat a day after starting work on the Bogalay farms.
"Between 400 and 500 labourers were seen this morning at the port area , they said they had to sign agreement letters with the authorities and they couldn't leave until they finished all the work," he said.
"They want to go back to their homes now but they have no money to travel and they don’t get proper meals either , some even had their ID cards taken away by the officials."
A resident of Hlaing Tharyar township said the local USDA had been persuading people in the township to go and work in the Irrawaddy delta.
"A female USDA member in ward 14 told people here the labourers would be paid 10,000 kyat a day for cleaning out shrimp breeding tanks in the Irrawaddy delta," the resident said.
"Of the first group of about 100 people who went to work there, 90 people have already come back here as they couldn’t stand the rotting smell and the presence of the spirits of lost souls."
Reporting by Naw Say Phaw