Karen State: Burma Army Uses Women as Forced Porters and Human Shields, Forces Thousands of Villagers to Flee Their Homes

Karen State, Burma
9 December, 2021
Villagers fleeing by boat arrive at a hide site
Villagers arriving at a hide site.

The Burma Army and their proxies, the Border Guard Force (BGF) continue to have little value for human life and to commit human rights violations across Karen State, forcing women, including twelve girls under the age of 18, to be human shields and porter supplies to their camp. On 12 November the Burma Army again increased their attacks and 2,286 villagers from seven different villages fled into the jungle. Many of them returned to their homes a few days later on 18 November, but some still remain afraid to return. As of 6 December, reports were that many of these villagers are fleeing again or are still in hiding from the Burma Army. 

Below are further details of Burma Army activity in Karen State as reported by FBR team members, and the numbers of villagers affected by these attacks. Thank you for praying for these people and all in Burma including the dictators . We believe God is helping to bring change to Burma in the midst of this evil.  

14 September 2021, Kyaikto Township, Doo Tha Htoo District, Karen State: Burma Army has increased its presence and attacks in the villages around Kyaikto Township, firing artillery and mortars in and around the villages and fighting with local KNLA and PDF groups. The Burma Army is going house to house searching for members of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and People’s Defense Force (PDF) and have stolen many of the villagers’ belongings, including motorcycles, food, radios, and any money they can find. 3,893 villagers from 13 villages fled into the jungle and nearby towns to escape the Burma Army. A total of 835 households ran on 14 September and didn’t return to their homes until 2 October 2021 when the Burma Army went into a defensive stance. Many of the IDPs slept on tarps on the ground in the jungle while others took shelter in nearby monasteries. Many of the men are afraid to stay in the villages as the Burma Army will force them to be porters or join the army, so they flee into the jungle and dare not return to the villages. 

20 September 2021, Bilin Township, Than Ton District, Karen State: BGF battalion 1013 resupplied food, ammunition and other army equipment and forced 35 women from Gone Ywar Village, 30 from Pyin Ma Bin Sheik Village, and more than 100 from Kyo Wei. 12 of them were under the age of 18 years old. As they crossed Karen National Union controlled areas they would stand with the women porters on either side of them as human shields so the Karen defense forces would not shoot at them.

21 September 2021, Pah Loe Doh Village, Bilin Township, Karen State: For three hours, BGF Bat. 1013, led by Maw Hla Kye, shot small arms or machine guns (estimated over 3000 rounds) indiscriminately into the jungle and villages.

23 September 2021, Bilin Township, Than Ton District, Karen State: BGF Bat. 1013, led by Bo Ka Dow They, forced 300 women from four different villages to porter their supplies and belongings. The men from the villages are all gone to the jungle to avoid being forced into the Burma Army and to hunt and farm for their families, so the women who remain in the village, including some under the age of 18, were forced to porter the belongings.

24 September 2021, Law Mu Per and Law Mu Thaw villages, Nyaunglebin District, Karen State: Burma Army fought with Karen Army and fired mortars. 642 people fled from the villages and became IDPs; two pregnant women gave birth in the jungle while on the run.

26 September 2021: two Burma Army soldiers flee from Lay Kay camp in Karen State and surrender themselves to the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), Battalion 2. Yan Wai Aung, 28 years old, and Khine Lay Yan, 21 years old, told the KNDO that they have not been paid any of their salary for nearly one year. Their leader gives their monthly salary to the battalion leaders instead of to them. They also reported that their leaders mistreat them and they no longer want to be Burma Army soldiers. They had been Burma Army soldiers for two years.

27 September 2021: At 10:15 local time, Burma Army Military Operation Command (MOC (8) under Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 407, commanded by Zaw Min Htet, fired mortars from Ma Htaw Village into Mae Nyu Village rice fields. Later in the day, at 13:20 local time, they again fired three rounds into rice fields, wounding 56-year-old Saw Mya Maw who was going to take care of his animals. He suffered shrapnel wounds on his head and was treated at a nearby clinic for his wounds.

IDPs sleeping in the jungle
IDPs cross a stream while carrying what they can from their homes
IDPs build shelters in hiding