Provoking Displacement in Toungoo District: Forced labour, restrictions and attacks

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Provoking Displacement in Toungoo District: Forced labour, restrictions and attacks

Published date:
Sunday, November 11, 2007

The first half of 2007 has seen the continued flight of civilians from their homes and land in response to ongoing State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) military operations in Toungoo District. While in some cases this displacement is prompted by direct military attacks against their villages, many civilians living in Toungoo District have told KHRG that the primary catalyst for relocation has been the regular demands for labour, money and supplies and the restrictions on movement and trade imposed by SPDC forces. These everyday abuses combine over time to effectively undermine civilian livelihoods, exacerbate poverty and make subsistence untenable. Villagers threatened with such demands and restrictions frequently choose displacement in response - initially to forest hiding sites located nearby and then farther afield to larger Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps or across the border to Thailand-based refugee camps. This report presents accounts of ongoing abuses in Toungoo District committed by SPDC forces during the period of January to May 2007 and their role in motivating local villagers to respond with flight and displacement.

Footnotes

[1] 'Loh Ah Pay' is a Burmese term originally meaning voluntary service in the construction of temples and other community buildings. The SPDC uses the term when demanding uncompensated labour. For villagers the term has come to mean most forms of forced labour.

[2] Villages are regularly ordered to provide individuals to serve on a rotational basis as 'set tha', a Burmese term which typically applies to service as a messenger relaying orders from SPDC officers to village heads.  Those forced to serve in this capacity must remain at army camps and are also required to perform other menial tasks, whenever there are no messages to be delivered.

[3] See footnote 2, above.

[4] Soldiers shot dead a seven-year-old child,' Kwekalu, May 28th 2007.