In this file photo taken on March 8, members of the ethnic rebel group Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) take part in a training exercise at their base camp in the forest in Myanmar’s northern Shan State.
Myanmar’s military junta has used foreigners including Thais as human shields in northeastern Shan State, where fighting the junta and an ethnic alliance is escalating, according to The Irrawaddy online.
Instead of sending them back to their respective countries, the junta’s anti-human trafficking unit sent them to military camps, the online quoted a humanitarian worker as saying. Apart from Thais, other foreign nationals were those from Nepal, Ethiopia and Laos.
“The army is using them as forced labor to build bunkers, dig trenches, and carry timber. They are practically human shields.”
The foreigners are being held in front-line outposts in Laukkai town where their lives are at risk from fighting that could erupt at any time. They could possibly be caught in the crossfire, the Irrawaddy online reported.
The Brotherhood Alliance could launch attacks against Laukkai [any time]. And if they do get killed during rebel attacks, the junta will presumably attempt to frame the Brotherhood Alliance for targeting foreign civilians.
The Brotherhood Alliance, made up of the Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, has captured dozens of junta bases in and around the towns of Mong Ko and Chin Shwe Haw, northeastern Shan State, since launching its “Operation 1027” offensive a week ago.
Fears are now mounting that the fighting will spread to Laukkai, a border town sandwiched between Mong Ko and Chin Shwe Haw and controlled by the junta-allied Kokang Border Guard Force and militia.
Laukkai is notorious as a hub for online gambling and scam businesses. Hundreds of suspected human traffickers have been arrested and handed over to China in recent weeks after Beijing pressured the junta to crack down on Laukkai.