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The prisoners selected as porters described witnessing or enduring summary executions, torture and beatings, being used as “human shields” to trip landmines or shield soldiers from fire, and being denied medical attention and adequate food and shelter.One convict porter, Ko Kyaw Htun (all prisoner names used in this report are pseudonyms), told how Burmese soldiers forced him to walk ahead when they suspected landmines were on the trails: “ They followed behind us.The men were a mix of serious and petty offenders, but their crimes or willingness to serve were not taken into consideration: only their ability to carry heavy loads of ammunition, food, and supplies for more than 17 Tatmadaw battalions engaged in operations against ethnic Karen armed groups.Karen civilians living in the combat zone, who would normally be forced to porter for the military under similarly horrendous conditions, had already fled by the thousands to the Thai border.© 2011 Free Burma Rangers We were carrying food up to the camp and one porter stepped on a mine and lost his leg.The soldiers left him, he was screaming but no one helped. I looked up and saw bits of his clothing in the trees, and parts of his leg in a tree.Burmese army soldier walks behind a convict porter in northern Karen State.

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This report, based on Human Rights Watch and Karen Human Rights Group interviews with 58 convict porters who escaped to Thailand between 20, details the abuses.Officers and soldiers commit atrocities with impunity.Credible and impartial investigations are needed into serious abuses committed by all parties to Burma’s internal armed conflicts.Among those taken to do this often deadly work, for indefinite periods and without compensation, are common criminals serving time in Burma’s prisons and labor camps.Escaped convict porters described to us how the authorities selected them in a seemingly random fashion from prison and transferred them to army units fighting on the front lines.

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