Myanmar: Afraid to Complain about Forced Labor
Residents of Htantalan township in Chin State are being forced to work on the rebuilding of a old road running from the state's capital, Hakha to Hmandaw village in Sagaing division. Dr Mu Htan is Htantalan"s elected representative for the people's parliament. Htan is also known to have strng buiseness ties to the government and is reportedly the man behind the labor project.
"He is forcing locals to contribute one head per household for one week for the road construction with no meal provided,"
"Also he is aiming to collect 62 million kyat (around 9267743 U.S.) donation money for that project and has been pressuring parents of local youths who are living abroad now to ask for money from them,"
Citizens of Myanmar are afraid to openly complain to the International Labor Organization due to the possibility of being arrested.
"We heard about two men from central Burma who were recently thrown into prison for reporting a case to the ILO,” said one resident.
He is referring to Zaw Htay and his lawyer Pho Phyu, Htay was sentenced to ten years in prison after he and about 50 other farmers from Magwe division filed a complaint regarding government land seizures. 2003 acres were seized 2 years ago by the government after the farmers refused to give in to pressure to grow sugar cain far a army operated sugar factory. Pho Pyyu was sentenced to 4 years for defending Htay at his trial. He was charged under the Unlawful Associations Act.
Their complaint resulted in the ILO recently negotiating the return of the land and the right for the farmers to grow the crops of their choice.
Despite the ILO'S effort to eradicate forced labor in Myanmar they have had little success. Use of forced labor has declined among civilian authorities but has increased by the government.
LO’s liasion officer in Rangoon, Steve Marshall said:
“In terms of the forced labour issue, we continue to receive complaints, It is running at about the same level. It has not increased dramatically but it has not decreased either.”