Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Forced Labor Widely Used in Road Construction

Maungdaw (Narinjara): A large number of people in Maungdaw Township have been used as forced labor by local authorities on repair work on the Buthidaung - Maungdaw roadway since the road and bridges collapsed in heavy rains, said a resident from Maungdaw.

He said, "We have to go do the road repair along the motor road after the authorities summoned 50 people from each ward in downtown Maungdaw through Rayaka, the ward councils. The forced labor began on Monday."

In Maungdaw, there are six wards altogether, and each had to send 50 people yesterday to the locations where the road was damaged with their own mattocks and pickaxes to do repair work. They had to work from 9 am to 4 pm yesterday without pay.

"We had to work there from 9 am to 4 pm without payment, but the authority did not provide any assistance with any food or drinking water during the work time. We brought our own food from our homes to the road repair sites," the resident said.

A local source said the authority not only summoned people from downtown Maungdaw, but also a large number of people from rural villages located along the Buthidaung - Maungdaw motor road.

A witness said, "I saw a large number of people leave for the 7-miles bridge in many vehicles from the central market to repair the road, and most people were day laborers from Maungdaw."

According to another report, many wealthier families have had to pay 2,000 kyat to the ward council in order to hire a day laborer if they were unable to send someone from their own families to do the work.

In Maungdaw's government construction department, there is no machinery such as excavators or dump trucks to aid the repair work, so authorities have used locals as manpower to do all the necessary tasks.

The road constructed is expected by some to take as much as a year to complete by the people without any machinery due to the heavy damaged it sustained in the rains.

According to a local source, many people from Maungdaw are preparing to work at the road construction today after the township authority summoned them to do so.

The Buthidaung - Maungdaw motor road is a key transportation link along the western border and is central to the border trade with Bangladesh. Every rainy season the road suffers blockages and bridge collapses but the authority has neglected to repair such weaknesses as they arise.

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