Burma’s new government continues to try to convince the international community it is moving to a more freer society, but eye-witness accounts of continued human rights abuses in ethnic states is evidence to the contrary.
Earlier this month, villagers claim, seven ethic Kachin women were arrested and forced to labor as porters by the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Battalion 522 based in Muse Township in Northern Shan State.
The seven women were arrested on 12th October and according to an eyewitness known to the women, they were – Ma Mar Pwata, 40, Ma Htu Hsaing, 30, Ma Lwam Cham, 40 and Ma Bao Cham Dei, 40. The women all had young children dependent on them.
A woman relief worker from Myitkyina, who works on behalf of Kachin refugee caught in the fighting, told Karen News that men are too scared to stay in the villages and be seen by the Burma Army if case they are forcibly recruited, so the only people staying in the villages are the vulnerable – women and children.
“Men either join ethic armed group or get away from villages where the Burma Army is operating. The soldiers take women instead to work for them. Rape cases are common during the ongoing war. Fair or unfair, all wars are usually started by men, but when it comes to suffering, women and children are the ones to suffer most.”
The Burma Army Light Infantry Brigade 522 is under the Military Operation Command 16 and according to a local villager they have confiscated mobile phones [that access Chinese network] and taken four horses from villagers to carry their loads.
A local villager, who asked not to be named for security concerns said.
“They are forcing villagers to work for them by force. They often take villagers to the fighting areas and use them as human shields.”
Soldiers from the Burma Army Division 99 had also looted goods from home and shops in Namhsung.
The forced use of civilians in ethnic areas is well documented. In recent months organisations such as the Free Burma Rangers, the Karen Human Rights Group and the New York-based Human Rights Watch have published evidence of the Burma Army using civilians and prisoners as forced labor and as human shields and minesweepers in conflict zones.