Villagers forced to work as army porters

Aug 1, 2008 (DVB), Government troops in Shwe Kyin township, Bago division, have been extorting money from locals in Don Zayit village and forcing them to work as porters for frontline army camps.

A local villager said troops from the State Peace and Development Council Light Infantry Battalion 589, who are based on a hill near Don Zayit village, set up a checkpoint beside a creek and demanded a fee from all passing boats and passengers.

"They have been asking for money, wood and bamboo from everyone who wants to go past the checkpoint," the villager said.

"They have also been abducting local villagers who have gone into the jungle to cut bamboo and making them work as porters to deliver rations to their frontline camp in nearby Win Phyu Taung," he said.

"They said we could choose not to go into the woods and cut bamboo if we don’t want to work as porters."

The villager said the military often beat up porters if they failed to do their work satisfactorily.

"The villagers don’t mind paying money or giving bamboo to them but they are afraid of being forced to work as porters for the military and now everyone has stopped going into the woods," he said.

The villager said locals had not reported the matter to senior authorities because they were afraid of repercussions from the troops.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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