Locals have been forced to carry food rations for Burma Army troops in Chin State’s Paletwa Township, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) reported on May 17.
The Tatmadaw’s Infantry Battalion 77, based in Kha-maung-wa village in Paletwa, called up 31 people on May 15 to work as porters from Meezar village, including internally displaced people (IDPs) who have sought refuge in Meezar.
“I had to work as a porter three times in April. All Meezar villagers were rotating to carry food rations for the Burma Army between May 9 and 15,” one IDP told Khonumthung News. “I didn’t want to go but they repeatedly called up porters,” he said, referring to the soldiers.
“That’s why we had to go and carry their food rations. Actually, we didn’t want to do it. Our area is not stable these days. We were so worried about our safety when we were carrying their food. We could face problems anytime,” he explained.
Women, elderly people and Christian pastors were among those forced to carry rice for the Tatmadaw troops. They were reportedly paid 4,000 kyat (US$2.60) each for their labor, which involves carrying the food for 15 miles on foot.
The Burma Army transports their food rations from the town of Paletwa to Meezar by boat, then to Kyunchaung—another village—by motorcycle. After that, villagers carry these food rations by while walking the 15 miles from Kyunchaung to Kha-maung-wa.
Another Meezar villager told Khonumthung News that he didn’t feel the work was forced, even though they had to do it.
“Transportation is really difficult in this area. It’s not free. [The soldiers] pay money. Villagers are not forced to carry [food]. It’s not portering, it’s just giving our hands,” he said. Villagers from Kyauk-plaine and Tharyar Kon are taking refuge in Meezar because of clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army.