Forced Labour Continues under New Government in Chin State
07 September 2011: Local residents and civil servants have been forced to carry out manual labour in Chin State under the direct order of Chief Minister Hung Ngai, a report by the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) has said.
According to the statement released today, CHRO has documented a series of forced labour and portering imposed upon government employees and villagers in Hakha, Falam and Thantlang townships over the past two months.
Civil servants in Hakha town have been ordered to clear a construction site of government-owned guesthouse and the roadside leading up to Burma Army base of Light Infantry Battalion No. 266 on top of Mount Rung.
In August, three high school students were coerced into carrying heavy loads for soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion No. 266 from Congthia village to Thantlang town, according to the report.
CHRO’s Program Director Salai Za Uk Ling said: “All officials in Chin State have been made aware that forced labour is illegal, and that those who order it are liable to be punished under the law. Chief Minister Hung Ngai should be setting a positive example to the officials under his command. Instead, he seems to consider himself above the law and is confident that he can act with total impunity.”
Chief Minister Hung Ngai was said to have threatened the civil servants with a salary cut and a monetary fine of 3,000 kyats if they failed to follow the orders.
One local civil servant was quoted by CHRO as saying that they had to do the work despite heavy rains on Saturdays and that some got sick as a result.
Another local from Hakha complained about authority-foisted forced labour making him miss out on work for his own survival and livelihood, according to CHRO’s statement.
Earlier in May this year, the International Labour Organization’s official made a trip to Hakha, holding human rights awareness-raising workshop, with more than 160 people including government administrative officials, police, judges and Burma Army personnel.
Salai Za Uk Ling continued: “This seems like the latest move by Thein Sein’s administration to convince the international community that it is making positive changes. But we have yet to see any concrete improvements in the human rights situation on the ground in Chin State.”
“Are we really going to see the new human rights body investigate and hold powerful ministers like Hung Ngai to account? We believe that a UN-mandated independent, impartial Commission of Inquiry into grave human rights violations in Burma is the only way to end the culture of impunity.”
A January 2011 report by Physicians for Human Rights, Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State, found that almost 92% of people surveyed had been subjected to at least one incident of forced labour in the year before February/March 2010.
Around 500,000 ethnic Chin live in the northwestern area of Chin State in Burma.
The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) is a non-governmental, non-profit advocacy organization committed to promoting democracy in Burma, and documenting previously unreported human rights abuses being perpetrated against the Chin people by the Burma army and local authorities, instruments of the State.
Van Biak Thang