A vengeful Burmese military junta in Chin state has begun a witch hunt for people who rejected the draft constitution in the referendum on May 10. The local authorities have been threatening to take action against people in areas where the majority had voted ‘No’.
According to referendum observers, a majority of voters from Chin state cast the ‘No’ vote in the referendum.
Major Kyaw Lynn of the Light Infantry Battalion (140) stationed in Lailenpi village in Matupi Township, southern Chin state issued an order where 15 villagers from each village in Sabawngpi, Sabawngte, Pintia and Tinam were summoned to work as porters to carry rations for the Burma Army on May 15 and 16.
Sabawngpi, Sabawngte, Pintia and Tinam villages are where a majority of villagers had rejected the new constitution.
“The military intentionally identified the villages where people overwhelmingly voted ‘No’ in the referendum,” a villager in Matupi township said.
‘When we arrived at the army camp there was no ration or rice to carry. It was just to harass us,” a villager added.
The villagers went home but were told that they would have to be on their toes and wait for summons whenever there are rations to be transported.
Similarly, villagers from Sapaw village in Rezua sub-township were directed to transport ration but had to face a similar situation in the army camp in Lailenpi.
Moreover, the military authorities interrogated village council members from the villages which cast the ‘No’ vote.
“The army let them go only after they could convince officers that the people cast the ‘No’ vote despite village heads having intensely campaigned for ‘Yes’ votes ” local said n condition of anonymity.
Forced labour and use of villagers as porters were briefly stopped in Chin state prior to the referendum on May 10 after Thura Aung Ko visited Chin state as part of the junta’s referendum campaign programme.
Yet after the referendum, the regime has indicated in remote areas of Chin state that forced labour and porter duty is likely to be reintroduced.
The military authorities have allegedly restricted villagers along Indo-Burma border from travelling to neighbouring Mizoram state in northeast India.