News / Asia

Rights Groups Say Burma Army Using Prison Labor on Front Lines

Family members of prisoners wait for their release in front of the Insein Prison gate in Yangon. Myanmar's new government began freeing about 14,000 prisoners and commuting thousands more sentences on Tuesday in an amnesty critics dismissed as a token ges
Family members of prisoners wait for their release in front of the Insein Prison gate in Yangon. Myanmar's new government began freeing about 14,000 prisoners and commuting thousands more sentences on Tuesday in an amnesty critics dismissed as a token ges

Rights groups say they have new details about how Burma’s military forces prisoners to work as laborers and human shields on the front lines of its battles against ethnic militias.

Human Rights Watch and the Karen Human Rights Group say Burma’s military is forcing hundreds of convicts to work as porters, mine sweepers and human shields as it battles ethnic militias.

In a joint report released Wednesday in Bangkok, the rights groups detailed the abuses through interviews with 58 escaped prisoners.

The convicts say they were used in military operations from 2010 to 2011 against ethnic militias in eastern Burma’s Karen state and Pegu (Bago) region.

All say they were forced to work without pay and described slave-like conditions including inadequate medical care, food and shelter, as well as beatings, torture, and summary executions.

David Mathieson, a Burma researcher with Human Rights Watch, told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand that the abuse of prison labor is systematic and widespread.

“This is not just something that happens in Karen state and a local rogue commander decides to be brutal. This was something that someone senior in the military instructed the Ministry of Home Affairs to assemble numbers of men from different facilities and then transport them through the country. And, it’s quite chilling how well organized it is,” Mathieson said.

The Karen Human Rights Group has documented the use of convict porters in Burma since 1992 but authorities have denied prisoners are exposed to fighting.

Rights groups say the mistreatment of convict porters on the front lines is one of many ongoing war crimes in Burma and the United Nations should be investigating through a commission of inquiry.

Human Rights Watch cites attacks on civilians, extrajudicial killings, forced relocations, torture, rape, and the use of child soldiers.

The New York-based group says Burma’s armed ethnic groups are also committing abuses including forced labor, indiscriminate use of land mines, and child soldiers.

Elaine Pearson is deputy Asia director for the group. She says there were hopes that Burma’s election last year would lead to a gradual improvement in human rights. “But, since the elections, the fighting has actually intensified in northern ethnic areas. And, there really hasn’t been any change in the army’s brutal behavior against civilians,” she stated.

Since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, Burma has fought sporadic battles against ethnic militias seeking autonomy.

The internal conflict is one of the world’s longest running and is a major reason authorities cite for decades of military rule.

Burma in November held its first election in 20 years, replacing a military government with a nominally civilian one led by former military leaders.

The election was widely condemned as a sham designed to keep the military in power.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitcheni
X
September 22, 2014 11:42 AM
With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid