Rohingya teenager Sadek said he was walking along a dusty village street in early May when a soldier grabbed him by the collar and, wordlessly, dragged him away.
Along with 31 other men and boys, Sadek said he was loaded up with heavy sacks of rice and ordered by soldiers of 552 Battalion to march for two days through forest-covered hills with little food and water – and no pay. Some who resisted were beaten.
“By the end of it, I felt like I was going to die,” the 15-year-old said, adding he was released after some days.
Sadek’s story was backed by five other villagers who said they were dragooned into becoming porters with him.
Behind forced labour in Rakhine State is a cocktail of military impunity, racism, and a system that encourages local army units to be economically self-reliant, said Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project, a rights group that focuses on the Rohingya.
The Arakan Project has received information on up to 8,000 Rohingya, including hundreds of children, forced to work in 2014, Ms Lewa said.