Mautam-Hit Villagers Suffer Worse Due To Extortion By SPDC Army
05 October 2009: The plight of Chin villagers, who have been since 2007 suffering from food shortages, has deepened due to continuous extortion and forced labour imposed upon them by SPDC military army operating in Chin State, according to FBR (Free Burma Rangers).
A recent report released in July by an FBR team operating in Paletwa Township of Southern Chin State revealed that villagers have been made to carry army rations and equipment, relay information and letters from soldiers, and prepare army camps and other works.
“The SPDC military regime, far from helping these people who are suffering a food security crisis, demands forced labour without pay and extorts food and money from them,” added the report.
The SPDC Army is said to be supervising construction of a 240km long fence along Bangladesh-Burma-India border. At least four Army Light Infantry Battalions (LIBs), each with some 130 men, are seen operating in this part of Chin State, according to FBR teams.
One of the five letters sent to a village headman by SPDC Army reads: “When you get this letter, you must immediately send three porters to the village where the army column is located.” Another letter, which was collected and photographed by the FBR team, stated the village had to give a donation of 5 hundred kyat and one kg of rice from each house for the ordination of two Buddhist monks.
Documenting human rights abuses by the military authorities, the FBR team was said to have given medical assistance to the Chin IDPs, who have fled into the jungle, treating people, including children, with malaria, pneumonia, anemia and dysentery.
Recently, about 40 villages in Thantlang Township have been ordered to renovate military camps by Vuangtu-based Chief Commander Myo Zaw Win of Military camp LIB 266, Khonumthung News said.
Lailenpi-based SPDC Army is reported to have extorted the fund meant for hospital construction and forced villagers in Matupi Township to do construction work without any wages, sources revealed today.
A report released in January 2009 by HRW (Human Rights Watch) said that there were no army battalions stationed but only two operating in Chin State before 1988 but Chin State now hosts 14 battalions with an average of 400 to 500 soldiers each and 50 army camps.
Since 2007, Chin people have been facing severe food crisis, locally called mautam, caused by a once-in-fifty-year phenomenon in which bamboo flowers, bears fruits and dies consequently, which is followed by an influx of rats that destroy crops, fields and food storages.
The FBR teams were operating in Chin State and Arakan State, where peoples from Chin and Arakan tribes such as Mro, Khumi, Bru, Daingnet, Rakhine and Rohingya live together.