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Home > Main Library > Internal conflict > Internal conflict in Burma > Landmines > Atrocity demining

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Atrocity demining
Includes people being forced to walk in front of troops to explode any landmines.

Individual Documents

Title: Incident Report: Papun District, June 2011
Date of publication: 24 May 2012
Description/subject: "The following incident report was written by a community member who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights abuses, and is based on information provided by 27-year-old Naw K---, a resident of Ny--- village in Dweh Loh Township. She described an incident that occurred on the evening of June 6th 2011, in which she was arrested by Tatmadaw IB #96 troops when returning to her home and forced to porter along with two other villagers, Saw W--- and Kyaw M--- before later escaping, an incident that was previously reported by KHRG in December 2012 in "Papun Situation Update: Dweh Loh Township, Received in November 2011". Security precautions taken by Tatmadaw troops on resupply operations are also mentioned, with Naw K--- describing how the two other villagers were shot at by IB #96 soldiers as they approached the agricultural area surrounding D--- village prior to their arrest. Naw K--- also highlights other issues associated with forced portering, specifically how requiring villagers to travel through unfamiliar areas contaminated by landmines places villagers at increased risk of landmine injury."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
Format/size: html, pdf (254K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg12b44.pdf
Date of entry/update: 13 June 2012

Title: Ongoing forced labour and movement restrictions in Toungoo District
Date of publication: 12 March 2012
Description/subject: "In Toungoo District between November 2011 and February 2012 villagers in both Than Daung and Tantabin Townships have faced regular and ongoing demands for forced labour, as well movement and trade restrictions, which consistently undermine their ability to support themselves. During the last few months, the Tatmadaw has demanded villagers to support road-building activities by providing trucks and motorcycles to send food and materials, to drive in front of bulldozers in potentially-landmined areas, to clean brush, dig and flatten land during road-building, and to transport rations during MOC #9 resupply operations as recently as February 7th 2012."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 13 March 2012

Title: From Prison to Front Line: Analysis of convict porter testimony 2009 – 2011
Date of publication: 13 July 2011
Description/subject: "...Over the last two decades, KHRG has documented the abuse of convicts taken by the thousands from prisons across Burma and forced to serve as porters for frontline units of Burma’s state army, the Tatmadaw. In the last two years alone, Tatmadaw units have used at least 1,700 convict porters during two distinct, ongoing combat operations in Karen State and eastern Bago Division; this report presents full transcripts and analysis of interviews with 59 who escaped. In interviews with KHRG, every convict porter described being forced to carry unmanageable loads over hazardous terrain with minimal rest, food and water. Most told of being used deliberately as human shields during combat; forced to walk before troops in landmine-contaminated areas; and being refused medical attention when wounded or ill. Many saw porters executed when they were unable to continue marching or when desperation drove them to attempt escape. Abuses consistently described by porters violate Burma's domestic and international legal obligations. If such abusive practices are to be halted, existing legal provisions must be enforced by measures that ensure accountability for the individuals that violate them. This report is intended to augment "Dead Men Walking: Convict Porters on the Front Lines in Eastern Burma", a joint report released by KHRG and Human Rights Watch in July 2011..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
Format/size: html, pdf (3.2MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg1102.pdf

Date of entry/update: 15 July 2011

Title: Dead Men Walking: Convict Porters on the Front Lines in Eastern Burma
Date of publication: 12 July 2011
Description/subject: "...For decades the Burmese army has forced civilians to risk life and limb serving as porters in barbaric conditions during military operations against rebel armed groups. Among those taken to do this often deadly work, for indefinite periods and without compensation, are common criminals serving time in Burma’s prisons and labor camps. Escaped convict porters described to us how the authorities selected them in a seemingly random fashion from prison and transferred them to army units fighting on the front lines. They are forced to carry huge loads of supplies and munitions in mountainous terrain, and given inadequate food and no medical care. Often they are used as “human shields,” put in front of columns of troops facing ambush or sent first down mined roads or trails, the latter practice known as "atrocity demining.” The wounded are left to die; those who try to escape are frequently executed. Burma’s military government promised that the November 2010 elections, the country’s first elections in more than 20 years, would bring about human rights improvements. But soon after election day the Burmese army, the Tatmadaw, launched military operations that have been accompanied by a new round of abuses. In January 2011, the Tatmadaw, in collusion with the Corrections Department and the Burmese police, gathered an estimated 700 prisoners from approximately 12 prisons and labor camps throughout Burma to serve as porters for an ongoing offensive in southern Karen State, in the east of the country. The same month, another 500 prisoners were taken for use as porters during another separate military operation in northern Karen State and eastern Pegu Region, augmenting 500 porters used in the same area in an earlier stage of the operation in the preceding year. The men were a mix of serious and petty offenders, but their crimes or willingness to serve were not taken into consideration: only their ability to carry heavy loads of ammunition, food, and supplies for more than 17 Tatmadaw battalions engaged in operations against ethnic Karen armed groups. Karen civilians living in the combat zone, who would normally be forced to porter for the military under similarly horrendous conditions, had already fled by the thousands to the Thai border. The prisoners selected as porters described witnessing or enduring summary executions, torture and beatings, being used as “human shields” to trip landmines or shield soldiers from fire, and being denied medical attention and adequate food and shelter. One convict porter, Ko Kyaw Htun (all prisoner names used in this report are pseudonyms), told how Burmese soldiers forced him to walk ahead when they suspected landmines were on the trails: “They followed behind us. In their minds, if the mine explodes, the mine will hit us first.” Another porter, Tun Mok, described how soldiers recaptured him after trying to escape, and how they kicked and punched him, and then rolled a thick bamboo pole painfully up and down his shins. This report, based on Human Rights Watch and Karen Human Rights Group interviews with 58 convict porters who escaped to Thailand between 2010 and 2011, details the abuses. The porters we spoke with ranged in age from 20 to 57 years, and included serious offenders such as murderers and drug dealers, as well as individuals convicted of brawling and fraud— even illegal lottery sellers. Their sentences ranged from just one year to more than 20 years’ imprisonment, and they were taken from different facilities, including labor camps, maximum security prisons, such as Insein prison in Rangoon, and local prisons for less serious offenders. The accounts shared by porters about the abuses they experienced in 2011 are horrific, but sadly not unusual. The use of convict porters is not an isolated, local, or rogue practice employed by some units or commanders, but has been credibly documented since as early as 1992. This report focuses on recent use of convict porters in Karen State, but the use of convict porters has also been reported in the past in Mon, Karenni, and Shan States. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has raised the issue of convict porters with the Burmese government since 1998, yet the problem persists, particularly during major offensive military operations. Burma’s forcible recruitment and mistreatment of convicts as uncompensated porters in conflict areas are grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. Abuses include murder, torture, and the use of porters as human shields. Those responsible for ordering or participating in such mistreatment should be prosecuted for war crimes. Authorities in Burma have previously admitted the practice occurs, but have claimed that prisoners are not exposed to hostilities. The information gathered for this report, consistent with the evidence gathered over the past two decades, demonstrates that this simply is not true. The practice is ongoing, systematic, and is facilitated by several branches of government, suggesting decision-making at the highest levels of the Burmese military and political establishment. Officials and commanders who knew or should have known of such abuses but took no measures to stop it or punish those responsible should be held accountable as a matter of command responsibility. The use of convict porters on the front line is only one facet of the brutal counterinsurgency practices Burmese officials have used against ethnic minority populations since independence in 1948. These include deliberate attacks on civilian villages and towns, large-scale forced relocation, torture, extrajudicial executions, rape and other sexual violence against women and girls, and the use of child soldiers. Rebel armed groups have also been involved in abuses such as indiscriminate use of landmines, using civilians as forced labor, and recruitment of child soldiers. These abuses have led to growing calls for the establishment of a United Nations commission of inquiry into longstanding allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Burma. As the experiences contained in this report make clear, serious abuses that amount to war crimes are being committed with the involvement or knowledge of high-level civilian and military officials. Officers and soldiers commit atrocities with impunity. Credible and impartial investigations are needed into serious abuses committed by all parties to Burma’s internal armed conflicts. The international community’s failure to exert more effective pressure on the Burmese military to end the use of convict porters on the battlefield will condemn more men to take their place..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Human Rights Watch (HRW), Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
Format/size: pdf (1.6MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/burma0711_OnlineVersion.pdf
Date of entry/update: 15 July 2011

Title: Southwestern Papun District: Transitions to DKBA control along the Bilin River
Date of publication: 18 August 2010
Description/subject: "This report documents the human rights situation in communities along the Bilin to Papun Road and along the Bilin River in western Dweh Loh Township, Papun District. SPDC forces remain active in these areas, but DKBA soldiers from Battalions #333 and #999 have increased their presence; local villagers have reported that they continue to face abuses by both actors, but KHRG has received a greater number of reports of DKBA abuses, especially regarding exploitative demands, movement restrictions and the use of landmines in civilian areas. This report is the first of four reports detailing the situation in southern Papun that will be released in August 2010. Incidents documented in this report occurred between November 2009 and March 2010...Since late 2009, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) has strengthened its presence in southwestern Dweh Loh Township, Papun District, increasing troop levels and camps, commencing gold mining operations on the Bilin River, and enforcing movement restrictions on the civilian population. Residents of the village tracts near the Bilin River and along the Bilin to Papun road, which follows the eastern bank of the Bilin River north through the centre of Dweh Loh Township (see map), have told KHRG field researchers that they have faced heavy demands for forced labour to support the increased DKBA presence, detracting from the time they can spend on livelihoods activities. Communities with a DKBA camp nearby have had livelihoods further curtailed, as DKBA soldiers have enforced strict curfews and other movement restrictions that have prevented villagers from spending sufficient time in their fields. Units from the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Army, meanwhile, remain deployed in southwestern Papun, and villagers living near active SPDC Army camps report that they continue to face exploitative demands and irregular violent abuses from SPDC troops. According to KHRG’s most recent information, as of March 2010 DKBA soldiers from Battalions #333 and #999 were occupying more than 28 camps in Wa Muh, Meh Choh, Ma Lay Ler, and Meh Way village tracts in western Dweh Loh Township; SPDC soldiers from Infantry Battalion (IB) #96 and Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #704, under Military Operations Command (MOC) #4 Tactical Operations Command (TOC) #1,1 were also active in the same area. While there does not appear to have been a formal transfer of authority from SPDC to DKBA Battalions in these areas, reports from local villagers suggest that they now face greater exploitative demands and human rights threats from increased DKBA military control in southwestern Papun District. Troops from Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) 5th Brigade are also active in southwestern Papun, chiefly placing landmines and making sporadic ‘guerrilla’ style attacks on the SPDC and DKBA.2
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG #2010-F5)
Format/size: pdf (683K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg2010/khrg10f5.pdf
Date of entry/update: 10 October 2010

Title: Forced recruitment, forced labour: interviews with DKBA deserters and escaped porters
Date of publication: 13 November 2009
Description/subject: "...This news bulletin provides the transcripts of eight interviews conducted with six soldiers and two porters who recently fled after being conscripted by the DKBA. These interviews confirm widespread reports that the DKBA has been forcibly recruiting villagers as it attempts to increase troop strength as part of a transformation into a government Border Guard Force in advance of the 2010 elections. The interviews also offer further confirmation that the DKBA continues to use children as soldiers and porters in front-line conflict areas. Three of the victims interviewed by KHRG are teenage boys; the youngest was just 13 when he was forced to join the DKBA..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Field Report (KHRG #2009-B11)
Format/size: html, pdf (628K)
Date of entry/update: 29 November 2009

Title: Human minesweeping and forced relocation as SPDC and DKBA step up joint operations in Pa'an District (English and Karen)
Date of publication: 20 October 2008
Description/subject: "Since the end of September 2008, SPDC and DKBA troops have begun preparing for what KHRG researchers expect to be a renewed offensive against KNU/KNLA-controlled areas in Pa'an District. These activities match a similar increase in joint SPDC-DKBA operations in Dooplaya District further south where these groups have conducted attacks against villagers and KNU/KNLA targets over the past couple of weeks. The SPDC and DKBA soldiers operating in Pa'an District have forced villagers to carry supplies, food and weapons for their combined armies and also to walk in front of their columns as human minesweepers. This report includes the case of two villagers killed by landmines during October while doing such forced labour, as well as the DKBA's forced relocation of villages in T'Moh village tract of Dta Greh township, demands for forced labourers from the relocated communities and the subsequent flight of relocated villagers to KNLA-controlled camps in Pa'an District as a means to escape this abuse; all of which took place in October 2008."
Language: English, Karen
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
Format/size: html, pdf (534K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg08b11.pdf
Date of entry/update: 13 March 2012

Title: Attacks, forced labour and restrictions in Toungoo District
Date of publication: 01 July 2008
Description/subject: "While the rainy season is now underway in Karen state, Burma Army soldiers are continuing with military operations against civilian communities in Toungoo District. Local villagers in this area have had to leave their homes and agricultural land in order to escape into the jungle and avoid Burma Army attacks. These displaced villagers have, in turn, encountered health problems and food shortages, as medical supplies and services are restricted and regular relocation means any food supplies are limited to what can be carried on the villagers' backs alone. Yet these displaced communities have persisted in their effort to maintain their lives and dignity while on the run; building new shelters in hiding and seeking to address their livelihood and social needs despite constraints. Those remaining under military control, by contrast, face regular demands for forced labour, as well as other forms of extortion and arbitrary 'taxation'. This report examines military attacks, forced labour and movement restrictions and their implications in Toungoo District between March and June 2008..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Field Reports (KHRG #2008-F7)
Format/size: html, pdf (880 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg08f7.pdf
Date of entry/update: 01 November 2009

Title: Landmines, Killings and Food Destruction: Civilian life in Toungoo District
Date of publication: 09 August 2007
Description/subject: "The attacks against civilians continue as the SPDC increases its military build-up in Toungoo District. Enforcing widespread restrictions on movement backed up by a shoot-on-sight policy, the SPDC has executed at least 38 villagers in Toungoo since January 2007. On top of this, local villagers face the ever present danger of landmines, many of which were manufactured in China, which the Army has deployed around homes, churches and forest paths. Combined with the destruction of covert agricultural hill fields and rice supplies, these attacks seek to undermine food security and make life unbearable in areas outside of consolidated military control. However, as those living under SPDC rule have found, the constant stream of military demands for labour, money and other supplies undermine livelihoods, village economies and community efforts to address health, education and social needs. Civilians in Toungoo must therefore choose between a situation of impoverishment and subjugation under SPDC rule, evasion in forested hiding sites with the constant threat of military attack, or a relatively stable yet uprooted life in refugee camps away from their homeland. This report documents just some of the human rights abuses perpetrated by SPDC forces against villagers in Toungoo District up to July 2007..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Field Report (KHRG #2007-F6)
Format/size: html, pdf (1.24 MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg07f6_0.pdf
Date of entry/update: 08 November 2009

Title: Provoking Displacement in Toungoo District: Forced labour, restrictions and attacks
Date of publication: 30 May 2007
Description/subject: "The first half of 2007 has seen the continued flight of civilians from their homes and land in response to ongoing State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) military operations in Toungoo District. While in some cases this displacement is prompted by direct military attacks against their villages, many civilians living in Toungoo District have told KHRG that the primary catalyst for relocation has been the regular demands for labour, money and supplies and the restrictions on movement and trade imposed by SPDC forces. These everyday abuses combine over time to effectively undermine civilian livelihoods, exacerbate poverty and make subsistence untenable. Villagers threatened with such demands and restrictions frequently choose displacement in response - initially to forest hiding sites located nearby and then farther afield to larger Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps or across the border to Thailand-based refugee camps. This report presents accounts of ongoing abuses in Toungoo District committed by SPDC forces during the period of January to May 2007 and their role in motivating local villagers to respond with flight and displacement..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Field Report (KHRG #2007-F4)
Format/size: html, pdf (947K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/sites/default/files/khrg07f4_0.pdf
Date of entry/update: 08 November 2009