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Burma: Burmese Army Works Minorities to Death

While on patrol, Burmese troops seize villagers for forced labour and steal livestock, rice, money and personal possessions. Soldiers frequently torture or kill people for assumed links with the armed opposition simply because of the areas in which they live, the report says.

Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK said: 'Peasant families who are not members of the country's Burmese majority are living under a reign of terror at the hands of their own country's army.'

'They are being worked or beaten to death. Hundreds have died from exhaustion, disease and beatings as a result of carrying heavy loads over rough terrain for days or weeks at a time or from working on construction projects.'

Making up a third of the population, ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable in so-called 'black' or 'grey' zones where armed opposition groups are fighting the Burma (Burma) army, the tatmadaw. The vast majority of victims in the conflict zones are subsistence rice farmers living in small villages.

The study, Ethnic Minorities: Targets of Repression , is based on evidence given by refugees who have fled to Thailand. It recounts the testimony of one 20-year-old farmer who said: 'I was forced to lie on my stomach while they put two wooden rods on my back and a soldier stood on each side of the rods. I was also poked with a knife in the chest. They kept asking me for more information but I didn't have any. They dug a hole and put me in it and made me lie down and beat me with bamboo. They said they would kill me. I thought I would die...'

A young man who was taken for forced labour duty on several occasions told Amnesty International about the fate of his 68-year old grandfather U Ba Si: 'He fell down from exhaustion and the soldiers kicked him with boots and hit him with rifle butts. I pleaded with the soldiers to let me share his load, but they wouldn't allow it. He died three days after he returned from portering.'

Another told of her 15-year-old niece, Naw Po, who was shot in the head by troops who came to their hiding place. She also said that troops shot their way into the home of her nephew, Maw Tu, a widower with three Children's rights, killing him and then abducting his Children's rights.

Amnesty International is calling on the Burma government to ensure full and free access for International Labour Organisation delegates to carry out a full investigation into forced labour in Burma and for the protection of any interviewees who give testimony to them.

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