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Forced labour victim denied medical care

June 2, 2009 (DVB), A woman who broke her collar bone whilst being forced by Burmese authorities to work on the construction of a road in Irrawaddy division has said she has received no medical attention for her injuries.

Reports of forced labour in infrastructural development projects in Burma are common.

A resident in Irrawaddy's Ingapu township said that township authorities had ordered the expansion of a two mile-long road between Thegone and Thargaung villages on 21 May. Both men and women were forced to work on the project.

Three women from Thegone village were hurt when a bullock cart flipped over, with one sustaining a broken collar-bone and the other two receiving facial injuries.

"One of the women named Daw Ma Kyi broke her collar bone but the village authorities refused to take her to a hospital in nearby town of Kwin Kaut," said the Ingapu resident.

"So she instead went to a shaman in Kyaynapyan village."

One of the villagers told DVB that the locals, although aware that they could report the forced labour incident to the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO), were unable to do so because they were afraid they would get punished.

"We know we can report to the ILO about this but no one has guts to do so," he said.

"We are afraid of our village authorities as they showed us examples in the past."

Complainants of forced labour are often intimidated, with some even imprisoned after authorities learnt of the complaints.

The ILO office in Rangoon maintains that they have an agreement with the Burmese government that complainants will not be persecuted, although acknowledge that it is an ongoing problem.

Ingapu's township Peace and Development Council office was unavailable for comments.

In a separate incident, villagers in Mongyang township in Shan state were last week reportedly forced by authorities repay the cost of a visit by Burmese prime minister, Thein Sein.

Authorities claimed the cost of the visit could not be fully subsidised by the township council, although villagers doubted this.

"The cost could not have been much," a village headman told the Shan Herald Agency for News.

"The visitors just stayed for about an hour and they only had coffee and juice. It's just another way to fill up his pocket."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw


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