Serving as Human Shield, Ta Dein Villager Loses his Leg
October 18, 2011
On October 6, 2011, while three villagers from Ta Dein village, Three Pagoda Pass area, were used by government Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No.543, which is active around Ta Dein, to serve as porters and human shields, a man Myint Swe (not real name) was hit by land-mine, during they were guiding the troops to the territory of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 6.
Ta Dein village is about 11 kilometers from the town of Three Pagodas Pass on Thai-Burma border. The villagers here are often forced to porter Burmese troops’ supplies and to walk in front as they head out into KNLA Brigade 6-controlled areas.
After the outbreak of post-election fighting between the Burmese government forces and the Breakaway Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Brigade 5, local residents in Three Pagodas Pass (TPP) Sub-township have been forced to serve as porters for government battalions.
Particularly, the villagers from Ta Dein, Ah Pa-lone, Myaing Tha-yar villages and nearby villages in TPP sub-township, Kyarinnseikkyi Township, Karen State, are frequently used as porters. They are forced to carry army rations, equipment and heavy weaponry like mortars and artillery shells. This is all in addition to walking ahead of the troops, serving as human shields or mine clearers. These residents encounter extreme danger as they are forced onto battle fields and areas controlled by opposing armed groups.
Myint Swe (not real name), said that the LIB No. 543 commander forced the village headman and him to find three villagers in the village to porter and lead the troops to Ah Plone village, even though they thought the troops knew how to get there. He added that the LIB No. 543 have often used local residents to serve as human shields and porters when they were doing military operations in KNLA Brigade 6’s controlled-area.
“They always force villagers to walk in front, show the way, and carry army supplies. We could not refuse their orders. I had to go like that several times already. Depending on when they are doing military operations, we have to find 2-3 villagers to guide them,” said Myint Swe.
Myint Swe, 47, is a wage laborer and a farmer, growing paddy rice on the mountain in t he rainy season. He is an ethnic Karen, father of three, and serves as a community leader in his village.
Instead of finding three villagers and endangering them, the village headman and Myit Swe decided to go porter on behalf of the village. Still, there included another villager, Saw Hla (not real name), making three porters in total.
After they left from Ta Dein village and walked half an hour, Myint Swe stepped on landmine and lost his leg during an ambush attack by the KNLA Brigade 6 between Myaing Thar Yar and Ah Plone villages, which are controlled by the KNLA and located in Kyarinnseikyi Township, Karen State. The landmines incinerated his cuboids and calcareous bones, in addition to causing a little bit of injury to his left hand. Also, four fighters of the LIB No. 543 received serious injuries when another group of bombs exploded in front of them. The two other porters, the village headman and Saw Hla, accompanied Myint Swe back to the village safely after three days of portering and guiding the government troops into the conflict zone.
“At the time, six government troops took to the frontline and I was put in the second line. When we arrived near Myaing Thar Yar village, I stepped on landmine. I could feel how when I lifted up my leg the landmine went off. After that, four landmines were detonated in front of me and four soldiers were seriously wounded. After the blasts, there was a small burst of small-arms fire in our direction. But the commander commanded his men not to shoot back, so it didn’t last long,” Myint Swe told.
Myint Swe said that the commander paid him 100,000 kyat (3,800 Thai baht) and 1,500 Thai baht for medical treatment. And, he added that if that amount of money was not enough for the treatment, he could ask for more at the troops’ headquarters.
Myint Swe was injured about 8:30 A.M and sent to Sangklaburi hospital, Kanchanburi province, Thailand, around mid-night with his son, who took care of him on October 6. He has been lying in hospital bed for three days already and is still waiting to get operation for his wounded left leg.
Myint Swe’s son, about 25 years old, said, “We received a phone call after my father got injured on the frontline. The soldiers sent him back to village by boat. And, I was with him to come across to the Thai side and rush him to the hospital. He was in critical condition when we arrived at the hospital because a lot of blood had already run out of him on the way. And, when we got to the hospital, the doctor asked me to find a blood donor for him. I knew no one here, so how could I find that? “
“If the situation gets better, the doctor said they would do an operation on his leg,” he added.
Despairing and discouraged with his father’s situation, he described that he did not know how to support his father and his family for survival in the future.
It’s extremely hard and dangerous for lives of local residents in the Ta Dein village, as they cannot escape from being used as porters, human shields or mine-clearers by the government troops. Those who are forced to porter will return to their homes safely if they are lucky; but otherwise, they may be killed or maimed by a landmine.
Even though there are some positive changes taking place in Burma, such as the release of some political prisoners and relaxed internet restrictions and media censorship, human rights abuses are still being committed by the Burmese government troops towards ethnic minorities. Particularly, in the regions of TPP Sub-township, Kyarinnseikkyi Township, Karen State, the use of local residents for service of government battalions as porters, carrying army supplies, and human shields, walking advance of the troops, is still in practiced and has yet to cease.