Burma accused of using prisoners to clear landmines
Rights groups allege that convicts have been used as human triggers for mines in the war against ethnic tribes
Dramatic testimony from escaped prisoners has revealed how the Burmese army is forcibly using convicts to serve as porters on the frontlines in military operations against ethnic tribes. Prisoners have been tortured, used as human triggers for landmines and – in some cases – summarily executed, according to human-rights groups.
Plucked from Burma's crowded jails scattered across the country, the prisoners are driven to operations in the east where troops are battling ethnic Karen rebels, who have opposed the state since its independence in 1948.
"We were carrying food up to the camp and one porter stepped on a mine and lost his leg," one prisoner, who subsequently escaped, told rights activists. "The soldiers left him; he was screaming but no one helped. When we came down the mountain he was dead. I looked up and saw bits of his clothing in the trees and parts of his leg in a tree." Another prisoner forced to carry supplies told about being shot after he and a group of 15 other prisoners ran away from the battlefield.
The prisoner, who used a fictitious name, said: "The soldiers told us at night that there was a lot of fighting on the mountain and that if we were alive tomorrow night we would be lucky. We heard the [soldiers] yell, 'Don't run, don't run'. I turned around to look and was hit with the first shot... the bullet hit my right shoulder and broke my arm. It knocked me down on to the ground."
The testimony is included in a report compiled by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Karen Human Rights Group. The report, Dead Men Walking, is based on interviews with almost 60 prisoners who have escaped from forced labour since 2010. "Convict porters are the Burmese army's disposable human pack mules. Press-ganging prisoners into deadly front-line service raises the Burmese army's cruelty to new levels," Elaine Pearson, of HRW, said.
In the general hospital of Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border, the wards are busy because of the war taking place in the mountains. The scarred and bandaged spill into the corridors. Virtually all of them are here because of one weapon: landmines.
The war also causes the vulnerable to flee in hungry throngs away from a conflict that often encompasses civilian populations.
- 1 Tidal launch: The most pretentious lines from Alicia Keys' valedictory speech
- 3 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 4 Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
- 5 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...
£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...