Civilians Used As Human Shield by Myanmar Junta Still Detained: Right Groups

By The Irrawaddy 26 August 2021

Fifteen civilians remain in military detention after at least 30 people were detained by Myanmar’s regime to use as human shields in fighting with resistance fighters in Kayah State earlier this month.

Divisions 66 and 55 detained 30 civilians between August 13 and 18 from Demoso, Hpruso and Bawlakhe in Kayah State and Pekon townships in southern Shan State amid heightened military tensions with resistance fighters.

The regime has released 15 detainees – 10 from Pekon, three from Demoso and two from Hpruso – but 15 others are still being held by the regime troops.

“I heard six taken from Demoso and eastern Hpruso are now in Loikaw after being used as human shields in different places. The regime is interrogating them in Loikaw, which may take four to five days. We will know only after interrogation if they will be released,” said Ko Banyar, a spokesman for the Karenni Human Rights Group.

The six were detained on August 14 as they returned to their villages to fetch food after fleeing their homes amid clashes. Two of the six were badly beaten as they were captured by junta troops and one of the six is a 15-year-old with health problems, according to the group.

They were taken to the frontline for more than a week before being sent to Loikaw. The regime also detained a civilian from Demoso around the same time and his whereabouts are still unknown.

A woman and seven men are reportedly being held by Light Infantry Battalion 531 based in Hpruso. They have been badly tortured, said the rights group, quoting witness accounts.

“Passers-by were seized by troops. They were tied in pairs and used as cover when soldiers entered villages. They were not fed properly. It is the terrible crime of kidnapping, using as human shields and slavery. It is a war crime under the Geneva Convention,” said Ko Banyar.

When asked by The Irrawaddy about the detained civilians, regime spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said: “We don’t arrest people for no reason. The only reason they were arrested is because they are linked to terrorist groups.”

When asked about the teenage detainee, he said: “The 15-year-old might be involved with illegal groups and will face justice.”

Karenni civil society organizations have accused the regime of forcing civilians to serve as guides for regime troops and using civilians as human shields in fighting with resistance fighters since May. Among those forced to serve as guides were children as young as 15 and women, said the organizations.

The Geneva Convention, which Myanmar has ratified, outlaws destroying civilian property, taking civilians hostages and compelling civilians to do work for military operations.

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