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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid