Burma Army using Karen villagers as ‘shields’

Villagers in the Three Pagoda Pass region have accused government troops of using them as human shields against attacks from ethnic armed groups in Karen State.

After suffering casualties in ambushes by Karen fighters, Burma army soldiers from Artillery Battalion and Light Infantry Battalion 543 based at Three Pagodas Pass Town forced 16 villagers from three villages to go with them on their patrols.

Following an ambush between Ta Day and Kyauk Gu villages on October 6, that killed two and wounded two soldiers. A civilian forced to be the Burma Army guide was blown-up by a tripwire surface-mine and lost a leg.

Villagers being taken as “guides” [a term used by Burma Army] or as human shields include four men from Kyauk Kwae (Myaing Thaya), seven men from Ah Palon, and five men from Kyauk Gu villages. Villagers were ordered to be the “guides” through orders from the Burma Army and sent to the village leaders.

A local resident close to village leaders said that villagers are taken as protection for the soldiers and used to walk in front and between troops on patrols.

“They ordered village leaders to send their people. Villagers are used as protection in order to prevent Karen attacks while they are traveling from one place to the next. Once, the troops have taken villagers they move out on patrol.”

The villagers explained that Karen fighters wait to ambush Burma Army soldiers while they are traveling between villages and unfortunately, the Burma Army uses the villagers taken as “guides” as their protection. In preplanned ambushes these villagers are at great risk under attack.

Residents say taking villagers’ as a protective shield is not new to the area. Local villagers said that it happened whenever the Burma Army was ambushed on their patrols.

The Karen resistance groups do not have the troop strength to openly fight the Burma Army and rely on guerrilla tactics and ambushes.

Villager leaders say the Burma Army has no respect for international laws in regard to the use of villagers in war and constantly break laws and conventions without risk of punishment. In recent months the Burma Army has been accused by human rights groups of using systematic rape against ethnic women in Shan and Kachin States.

The Burma Army rotate their troops from the Noh Choe outpost to their Tactical Command headquarter in Three Pagoda Pass.

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