Atrocity/forced labour mine clearance[1]

Use of human beings to clear mines for a military patrol is a grave violation against International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and revolts the dictates of pubic conscience. The activity is unreservedly condemned by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines as an affront to the humanitarian principles our movement is founded upon.

 

On April 11, 2018, villagers from Lai Nawng Khu, located in Hpakant township of Kachin State fled their homes due to a rumor of armed confrontations between the Tatmadaw and the KIA. After two nights in the jungle, they met a Tatmadaw column from Light Infantry Battalion 424, who questioned them about their knowledge of the KIA. The troops then ordered the villagers to walk with them through the jungle, single file, interspersed with the soldiers, and with villagers leading in front. One of the villagers ordered to walk ahead of the group named Po Shan, was injured by a land mine. Villagers saw him being carried away, suspended in a blanket on a pole. It is not known if he survived.[2]

 

According to Sai Htun Nyan, a Member of Parliament for Kyaukme Township in the Shan State Parliament, on 3 May 2018 a villagers from Taw Sang in his Kyaukme Township constituency was forced to walk ahead of a Myanmar Army infantry column, detonating and being injured by a land mine. MP Sai Htun Nyan requested to raise the issue of human mine sweeping in the Shan State Parliament, but authorities in the Parliament refused to discuss allegations that different armed forces had used local civilians as human shields to clear landmines in northern Shan State. MP Sai Htun Nyan stated in the media that many people in his constituency had provided accounts of how they were forced to act as “guides,” walking in front of military units through minefields. While many of the armed groups active in the area employ the practice, the Myanmar Army does it the most, he said.

At the 24-31 May 2018 session of the Shan State Parliament, MP Sai Htun Nyan proposed discussing the issue with the intention to condemn the armed groups that employed the practice, but Parliament officials turned him down. “It seemed to me that if I condemned other ethnic armed groups and mentioned particular names, they would let my proposal pass and I would be able to raise the issue in Parliament. But as it was likely to mention their army, they blocked it,” he said.[3]

 

In September 2018, in the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, the Mission received repeated accounts that individuals subjected to forced labour were made to walk at the front of the line when the Tatmadaw was travelling through the forest in areas of active conflict.  Some told the Mission that they were put at the front to act as “human mine sweepers”, being the first to encounter any landmines in the area, rather  than the soldiers. Several victims of forced labour witnessed other civilians being injured or killed by landmines during forced labour.[4]

[1] Over the past two decades, Landmine Monitor has frequently reported disturbing testimony of the Myanmar military forcing civilians to remove antipersonnel mines from the ground, without training or protective equipment, or forcing civilians to guide or carry equipment for the military in areas where the danger of antipersonnel mines exists—on some occasions using civilians as human minesweepers. Such activities constitute a threat to the right to life, liberty and security of person as stipulated in Article 3 of the UDHR. The ICBL provided a stakeholder submission regarding the use of human minesweepers to the Commission on Human Rights during Myanmar’s first Universal Periodic Review in 2011.

[2]Burma Army commits war crimes against Kachin IDPs: blocking access to refuge, using as human shields and minesweepers, indiscriminate shelling, looting,” Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, 14 May 2018, and subsequent clarification emails with San Htoi, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, 2 July 2018.

[3] Lawi Weng, “Shan State Parliament Refuses to Let Lawmaker Raise ‘Human Shield’ Allegations,” the Irrawaddy, 1 June 2018.

[4] Human Rights Council, “Report of the detailed findings of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar“, 17 September 2018, A/HRC/39/CRP.2

 
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