Karen Rights Groups Condemn Burma Army’s Use of Women as Human Shields Against Landmines and Attacks

The Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) and the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) released a statement condemning the Burma Army’s using ethnic women as human shields in their operations.

Naw K’Nyaw Paw, secretary of the Karen Women Organization explained to Karen News as the Burma Army increases its offensives in ethnic regions women are abused.

“The [Burma] army entered villages, take up positions in the village and then use local villagers as their protection. They [Burma Army] stay in the village and forcibly take villagers, especially women, when they go on patrols to avoid being shot at.”

Naw K’Nyaw Paw said the women are placed in front and between Burma Army soldiers as they march to act as human shields against mines and attacks. Naw K’Nyaw Paw pointed out ethnic women are also targets for sexual violence by Burma Army soldiers.

“It’s especially worrying for women when Burma Army soldiers come to civilian areas. Physical violence is not the only problem, sexual abuses such as rape are also a real concern for women. When there are attacks, people run, leaving their villages. We are concern not only for the safety of the women, but also for the safety of children.”

The joint KWO and KHRG statement said since the February 1 coup, nationwide military attacks have destabilized the country and threatened the security of civilians. The statement cited an incident on August 19 involving Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion #341 and 410 who “Arrested three women villagers [Mutraw District]. The soldiers kicked and stepped on them and asked them many questions… forced the three women to carry their materials and equipment and used them as human shields until they reached Kyaw Hta Loh River, where they were released after sustaining minor injuries.”

The use of civilians as human shields is a violation of international humanitarian law but common practice by Burma Army soldiers in ethnic regions.

The KWO and KHRG statement said following fighting between the Burma Army and KNLA soldiers in Dooplaya District, Burma Army “soldiers took Naw Mu Htee Kaung, 30, and used her as a human shield by placing her in front of them as they marched farther into Karen National Union territory.”

Naw Htoo Htoo, director of the Karen Human Right Group confirmed to Karen News, Burma Army soldiers used civilians to carry their supplies.

“Civilians were ordered and forced to walk in front. Civilians can never be used as human shields. These are prohibited by international humanitarian law. The Burma Army, never obeys any law. This is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. This is a major concern for civilians, especially women. We must act decisively and quickly to end the dictatorship’s atrocities against civilians.”

Naw Htoo Htoo urged the “international community to define a No Fly Zone…, and to impose an arms embargo. The international community should stop the sale of weapons to the Burmese military.”

Naw K’Nyaw Paw told Karen News recent attacks by the Burma Army have increased in Karen State.

“The Burma Army operations have increased in ethnic areas and they continue to commit these abuses without fear of being prosecuted. These are the same type of violations the military junta committed in the past. We urge the international community to take immediate action against atrocities committed by the military appointed council.”

Moon Nay Li, an advocate with the Network for Human Right Documentation-Burma told Karen News human rights violations by the armed forces under the military appointed State Administration Council have increased across the country.

“After the [February 1] military coup, human right violations are committed even in the cities in daylight. As the army is committing human right violation with impunity, it is getting worse. Human rights abuses in ethnic war-torn areas will sure be worse which have long been plagued by military where inhumane crime is rampant.”

Since the military launched its coup on February 1, there has been at least 500 armed battles between the Karen National Liberation Army and the Burma Army and 70,000 Karen civilians have been displaced and are hiding in makeshift camps as a direct result of these attacks. Fighter jets have flown into Karen National Union-controlled areas 27 times and dropped at least 47 bombs, killing 14 civilians and wounding 28.

Since the coup, the military appointed State Administration Council has raided and closed independent media, targeted students, teachers, workers, doctors and nurses, politicians and journalists for arrest and launched armed offensives in ethnic regions and states.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) confirmed as of 7 September, the military killed 1051 people, including 75 children, arrested 7962 and issued warrants for 1984 protestors.

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