Burma Army Abducts Women As Human Shields

By Network Media Group
Monday, May 30, 2022

The Burmese regime has increasingly used civilians as human shields and to transport food and ammunition during battles with resistance groups since the military coup more than fifteen months ago, and women’s groups have pointed out that more and more women are being abducted to perform these tasks.

“In the past, it was rare to hear of women porters in Karenni State,” said Ma Zue Zue, joint secretary of the Burmese Women’s Union (BWU). But now, as the conflict escalates, it is becoming more common for both men and women to be kidnapped from their farms.

She explained that women who have joined the civil disobedience movement and are helping civilians affected by the violence are also being targeted. If they are not home when the army arrives, the soldiers take their families.

NMG tried to reach the military regime spokesperson for comment but he did not respond.

“The soldiers use women as human shields because they are afraid of being shot (by resistance fighters),” said Naw Say Say Heh, the second secretary of the Karen Women Organisation.

“Some of these women have to carry about 10 kg of rice and other things. If they can not do that, the soldiers beat them with the butt of their guns.”

Saw Nanda Hsu, spokesperson for the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), explained how difficult it is to document these human rights violations in Karen State. Last year, the BA had used at least three women as porters and more cases have been reported this year.

Since the BA often abducts and tortures men in villages, most of the men have fled before the army arrives, he said. With only the women left behind, the BA has started abducting them.

Last September, in Karen National Union Brigade 1 in Duthahtoo District, over 400 civilians, including some women, were forced to carry army supplies, Saw Nanda Hsu told NMG.

“They had to walk between BA soldiers… In the Brigade 5 area, the BA soldiers arrested women to lead them. They were forced to walk at the head of the soldiers. In Brigade 6, they also detained women as human shields.”

The BA and a Border Guard Force arrested more than 90 people in the Beelin Township in mid-May and detained them until Monday 23 May.

After many of the ethnic armed groups signed a ceasefire with the government in 2012 and some signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015, these types of human rights violations in the ethnic regions declined. However, they have increased dramatically since the recent coup.