Deadmen Walking

Humanitarian groups accuse Burmese government soldiers of committing war crimes against ‘convict porters’ used in frontline conditions

A joint report by the New York based Human Rights Watch and the Thai Burma border based Karen Human Rights Group – “Dead Men Walking: Convict Porters on the Front Lines in Eastern Burma” was released today in Bangkok at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

The joint report documents the “abuses including, summary executions, torture, and the use of convicts as ‘human shields’.”

The joint reports say the testimonies taken in 2010 and 2011 from 58 escaped convict porters raise, “serious incidents of human rights abuses occurring as standard practice, including use of porters used to sweep for landmines, deprivation of adequate food and medical assistance to porters and the systematic extortion of civilians at every level of Burma’s police, judicial and prison infrastructure.”

Survivors describe how they were forced to carry heavy loads in mountainous terrain, given inadequate food and no medical care and subject to ill-treatment and torture.

The director of KHRG, Saw Poe Shan, told Karen News, that his group has been documenting the abuse of convict porters since 1992.

“The barbaric practice of using convict porters has been a feature of armed conflict in Burma for at least 20 years, exposing them to the hazards of armed conflict with complete disregard for their safety.”

David Mathieson, Human Rights Watch’s, senior Burma researcher, stresses the practice of using convict porters shows collusion between different Burmese government departments.

“The practice is ongoing, systematic and is facilitated by several branches of government, suggesting decision making at the highest levels of the Burmese military and political establishment.”

In a joint media statement the Karen Human Rights Group and Human Rights Watch said.

“Serious abuses that amount to war crimes are being committed with the involvement or knowledge of high-level civilian and military officials. Credible and impartial investigations are needed into serious abuses committed by all parties to Burma’s internal armed conflicts. The report provides strong evidence for the formation of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into these and other crimes.”

Human Rights Watch and Karen Human Right Group called on the 16 countries that already support an UN led commission of inquiry to ask for the “establishment of such a commission in the forthcoming September UN General Assembly resolution on Burma.”

To read ‘A convict porter’s story’ go to –

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