Jul 30, 2008 (DVB)–Farmers in Magwe division's Aung Lan township have come under pressure from local authorities after filing a forced labour complaint to the International Labour Organisation.
The farmers reported to the ILO that local authorities had ordered them to grow sugar cane on their farms after declaring that the land was the property of the defence department.
A farmer from Thabyaypin village in Aung Lan said farmlands in nearby Sapyanjet that local farmers had been working on for generations were seized by local authorities earlier this month.
"Officials from Aung Lan township's sugar factory 5, led by major Ye Naing, seized the land and then forced us to sign an agreement to grow sugar cane on the land," the farmer said.
"They threatened to kick us off the land if we refused to grow sugar cane," he said.
"The farmers were really frustrated by that and about 50 of them filed a report to the ILO about the abuse."
The farmers were later summoned to see township Peace and Development Council chairman U Myint Ngwe, who demanded they tell him who had filed the report and why.
"We replied that we had had to report the case because growing sugar cane, which can only make us a profit once a year, would not be financially viable for us," the farmer said.
"But since then we have been paranoid that the authorities will do something bad to us."
Major Ye Naing and the Aung Lan township PDC office were unavailable for comment.
Reporting by Naw Say Phaw