Monday, 28 September 2020

Maungdaw, Arakan State: The engineering unit of the Burmese Army, which came to Maungdaw Township in September for supervising and security of fence construction on the Burma-Bangladesh border have been harassing Rohingya villagers, said a village elder on condition of anonymity.

The army is using forced labour of villagers for construction of the fence on the Burma- Bangladesh border. The army ordered the Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) members and the local Burma’s border security force (Nasaka) to send laborers to the construction site. The army is paying only Kyat 500 per day while the labor charge in the open market is Kyat 2,000. So villagers are reluctant to go to work and there are being harassed, said a local trader from the locality.  

For instance, on December 24, at about 11 a.m. when Rohingya  laborers were preparing for lunch by cleaning faces and legs, the engineering army unit  commander named Captain Myo Win beat up one of the workers severely alleging  that he had stopped work before lunch time when he had stopped work like other workers for having lunch. Every day, they take lunch at the same that time and the army commander cannot able to harass them during lunch time, said one of the workers at the work site.

All the workers went against him (the army commander). He was angry and took revenge by beating all the laborers. After that, the army made groups, comprising six villagers in one group, for security reasons. 

Similarly on December 26, six fishermen were forcibly brought to the work site, while they were going to Naff River for fishing. They were also severely tortured because of their reluctance to works on the fence. They were forced to work in the construction site, and were brought to Mangala Kyi middle school after finishing their work, where the engineering army unit is based and brutally tortured again.  Later, they were released after promising that they will pay Kyat 5,000 each. The local VPDC members had to give verbal guarantee for the fishermen to pay the promised money the following day, said one of the relatives of a fisherman. 

They have also been collecting tax from people carrying goods from Maungdaw when crossing their temporary base.

Moreover, on December 25, the army extorted Kyat 35,000 from a butcher who took a cow to Mangala Gyi from Maungdaw Town who had a legal license from government. He was also asked to pay 5-Viss (one Viss = 1. 63 kg) of meat to them after it was slaughtered, said a friend of the victim. 

Earlier, the army did not harass Rohingya people, but, at present they do so like Nasaka and police. They came here for supervising the construction of barbed wire fence on the border and to provide security for the fence, said a local elder.