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Civil servants in northwestern Burma have been threatened with salary cuts by the chief minister of Chin state unless they labour weekly on efforts to prepare parts of a town for rejuvenation.
Civilians, including students, in Hpalam, Hakha and Htantalan townships have also been forced to work by Chief Minister Hung Ngai, according to the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO).
It said that hundreds of people were ordered to “perform manual labour to clear various areas around the town” every Saturday morning since mid-July. Hpalam residents were also forced to porter for a local army battalion.
Reports of forced labour are common in Burma, although such high-level complicity is rarely documented. Hung Ngai is the most senior government official in Chin state, which borders India.
Physicians for Human Rights said in a report this year that human rights abuses in Chin state, one of the most isolated regions in Burma, were endemic.
“We found that government authorities may have killed an estimated 1,000 household members, tortured 3,800 individuals and raped 2,800 adults and children over the course of the 12-month reporting period” last year, Richard Solom, the group’s deputy director, told DVB in February.
CHRO spokesperson Salai Za Uk Ling said that aside from issues such as forced labour, the Chin struggled daily with persistent food shortages.
“Now that the new government is in office, we would like them to keep their word on the rule of law and protecting human rights,” he said, adding that the government’s promises of reform should be exemplified by Hung Ngai.