Military uses forced labour in Rakhine’s border areas

03 July 2015
Military uses forced labour in Rakhine’s border areas
A long line of Myanmar soldiers, arriving back from the unrest area in Rakhine state, march in Sittwe city, capital of Rakhine State, Myanmar, 31 October 2012. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

Stateless Rohingya Muslims near Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh say soldiers continue to force them into hard labour, despite the government launching a campaign three years ago to end the practice Reuters reported on 2 July.
The military, which ruled Myanmar for nearly half a century before handing power to a semi-civilian government in 2011, has vowed to end forced labour. President Thein Sein promised in 2012 to eradicate what was once a military custom within three years.
However, army units in the north of Myanmar's restive Rakhine state still routinely force minority Rohingya to porter loads, tend military-owned fields and maintain military infrastructure, according to interviews with 16 villagers in three hamlets conducted by a Reuters team.
Nevertheless, Maung Maung Ohn, the chief minister for Rakhine state, denied that the military carried out forced labour there.
"If forced labour was really happening in Rakhine state, we would have already heard about it and taken action," Maung Maung Ohn said.
The report quoted Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project, a rights group that focuses on the Rohingya, as saying that,
‘’Forced labour has actually dropped in much of Rakhine State where police or civilian agencies are in control, but persists in border areas like Buthidaung township in Rakhine, which is dotted with military bases.’’