Authorities force people to work till death
3 villagers were drowned after local authorities forced them to make a raft and many other people were forced to clear the bushes beside the Nammao River, also known as Shweli in Namkham Township, according to reliable sources.
By Lieng Lern
On 30 April 2008, local authorities forced 4 men to make a raft for them [authorities] to cross the river.
"While we were making the raft, some bamboo poles drifted away. Authorities then ordered us to swim after and take them back. But, the water was so strong and deep. 3 of my friends were drowned. I was the only survivor," a villager was quoted as saying.
The 3 men who died were Zau Kun, 31, Kachin, son of Zau Ngeng from Loiyai village; Naw Hsan, 29, Kachin, son of Brang Mai from Zamka village; and Mai Yai Tun, 25, Palaung, son of Aung Hsa from Wankwang village.
"The survivor was a Lisu from Zintuyang village. He then was threatened by local authorities not to tell anyone. If the news leak out, he would be punished," said the source. "Authorities then gave compensation for each of the 3 dead men Kyat 500,000 ($400) and 5 bags of rice."
On 1 April 2008, 12 villages were forced to clear the bushes beside Shweli river in Namkham township by District Peace and Development Council (DPDC), under the supervision of a unit from Infantry Battalion 144 commanded by Captain Soe Than who was based at Mantat village.
The Shweli River, known by Shans and Palaungs as the Mao, is a main tributary of the Irrawaddy. Its sources lie in China's Yunnan province at 11,000 feet above sea level. The river runs past Burma's Muse and Namkham and flows into the Irrawaddy north of Mandalay. The project is near Man Tat village, 17 miles southwest of Namkham, Northern Shan State. The Shweli dam was built by Asia World in 2002 owned by former "King of Opium" Luo Xinghan.