Friday October 20th 2017

Insider

Archives

Road or roundabout: has the situation in Burma improved?

In pdf

Monday 5 April 2004

3‐5 pm (15:00 – 17:00)

Room 24, Palais des Nations Human Rights Situation in Palaung Land

 

Presented by Ms. Lway Cherry

Palaung Women’s Organization (PWO),

Member organization of Women’s League of Burma (WLB)

 

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and friends of Burma.

 

My name is Lway Cherry. I am a Palaung ethnic national from Burma. Palaung is an ethnic minority group, who live in the northern part of Shan State. There are over 1 million Palaung people living there, and most of them live in mountainous areas surrounding the central plain. I am very glad to have this opportunity to speak before you on the situation of my people.

 

Today’s title of our panel is, “Has the situation in Burma improved”? It is unfortunate, but I must say that the answer is, “No”. In fact, the situation of people of Burma in all aspects including politics and human rights is getting worse. However, for today, I would like to share with you the human rights violations committed by the Burmese military regime, particularly against the ethnic Palaung people in Shan State.

 

The most common forms of human rights violations that Palaung people are suffering include forced labor, land confiscation and sexual violence against Palaung women by the Burma Army. Forced labor still exists in our area. For example, in our village, villagers have to build roads for the army. We have to provide at least 10 people for the Army to build roads and other work. If we refuse to go we will have to pay the equivalent of 2‐days’ wages each.

 

I would like to share with you my experience as a forced laborer. When I was about 16 years old, I had to go and work for the Burma Army on construction of a road. It was in Num Sum Township in Shan State. For about one year from 2001 – 2002, I had to go with people from my village as the army troops ordered us to provide labor to build a road. Together with my friends from the village, I had to carry large stones with my bare hands.

 

At that time I was 16 years old and studying in high school. My friends who were there with me were also about my age. We had to go three times. We were still too young to carry such big stones. For one stone, five of us had to lift and carry it away as they were huge and very heavy, and we were so exhausted. When we got thirsty and hungry, there was no water and no food for us. We had to eat only when we got back home.

 

I should tell you that at that time, I did not know that our rights were being violated. And I don’t think that my friends who were there with me also knew that their rights were abused by the military. For us, forced labor seemed a normal thing that we had to bear in our daily lives. We had to go to work for the army whenever they called on us, even though we, young people, had to stop going to school and go to build the road instead. There was no choice for us. We had to either go and work or pay the fine. And yet we did not know that our human rights had been violated. Life has become so unbearable for the Palaung people with these constant orders and demands from the military troops.

 

Whenever the military troops entered and set up a base in our village, we always had to worry when  the soldiers would rape our women and/or when they would kill and torture our people and use us as porters and forced laborers. Some soldiers rape Palaung women, and after rape when the women become pregnant, they don’t take responsibility or they are not punished for these crimes they have committed.

 

Another problem our Palaung people are facing is of land confiscation in the Palaung area. The lands owned by local Palaung people have been taken away by the army for military purposes such as building camps. Local people are not given any compensation after being forced to give up their inherited lands.

 

According to the Palaung Youth Information Center, there are 1,500 acres of planted land that the military regime had confiscated from Palaung people within 4 years from 1998 to 2002, in Numsun, Mantong, Numkham and Kukhaing Townships, in Palaung land.

 

Since their life became unbearable, Palaung people started fleeing their home and becoming Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by moving from one place to another and continuing to survive in the Palaung area. Many of them crossed the border into Thailand and have become illegal migrant workers and refugees.

 

Our Palaung people have survived and continue to survive despite harsh conditions they continue to encounter as IDPs, refugees or illegal migrant workers. However, we must be protected and provided with human security. Our peoples’ suffering must be alleviated. Therefore, in conclusion, I would like to request each and all of you to make concerted efforts to put pressure on the Burmese military regime (SPDC) to respect the rights of the ethnic and religious minorities and immediately cease all forms of human rights violations including forced labour, land confiscation and sexual violence against ethnic minority women.

 

Thank you.