Bogalay residents forced to work on reconstruction

Oct 21, 2008 (DVB), Residents of cyclone-affected areas of Bogalay township in the Irrawaddy delta have been forced to take part in reconstruction work or pay a fine, a local resident told DVB.

Locals have been ordered by military brigade 66 to carry materials for building roads in Saa-O Kyaung, Set Su, Yay Kyaw Gyee, Shwe Pyi Aye, Mondaing Lay, Khyoon Thaya, Kyeinchaung villages, a paddy field owner said.

Those that cannot work have to pay between 3000 and 5000 kyat.

The paddy field owner said army officials had told local workers to either abandon their day jobs to take part in construction work or pay the fine.

"They are forcing almost the whole villages to take part in road building, cleaning their buildings, and loading and unloading timber for the construction companies," the paddy field owner said.

"They have to work from 6.30am to 11am. Then they have to take a rest and have lunch at their own home. Then they have to work again from 1pm to 4.30pm," he said.

"They are saying that they are doing local development, but in fact they are just using forced labour."

The majority of the people forced to work for the army are farmers and fishermen, the paddy field owner said.

"They don't have enough labourers and the army is doing one thing and the police doing another," he said.

"We owners have to negotiate with them to make things run smoothly or else they want to harass you a little bit," he explained.

"We have to bribe them once a month. I have to pay 3000 kyat, or even 5000 if it is to the army."

The resident said locals had been forced to work in this way since July.

Since August, some paddy field owners have been paying the money demanded on behalf of their employees so they could be exempted from the work.

Reporting by Yee May Aung

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