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

Key Al-Shabab Commander Captured

Zakariye Ismail Hersi was captured in a raid Saturday morning in the town of El Wak near the border with Kenya More

Relations Between Pakistan, Afghanistan Key to Fighting Taliban

A Pakistani official tells VOA that anti-terrorism campaign has resulted in improved counter-terrorism cooperation with Afghanistan More

160,000 Displaced by Flooding in Malaysia

Prime Minister Najib Razak visits hard-hit Kelantan state, announces nearly $145M in additional relief for victims 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.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
X
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid