BURMA: Man disappears after being taken away to work as army porter


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-226-2007
ISSUES: Enforced disappearances and abductions, Impunity, Judicial system, Rule of law,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that a man who was detained by the army in Burma has since disappeared. Although it is more than one year since Maung Ko Kyi was taken away from his workplace, requests by concerned persons to know what has happened to him have not yielded information.

According to the information obtained by the AHRC, Maung Ko Kyi left from his village in lower Burma to go and work breeding fish further to the east, in Kyaukkyi, which is close to a heavily militarised part of the country still affected by civil unrest.

On 12 February 2006, Captain Kyaw Zayar Win and troops of Infantry Battalion 590 took Ko Kyi with them to Ohnshithkin village and demanded 300,000 Burmese Kyat (USD 250). They said that if his fish hadn’t matured then he could pay the money after they had done so (and he had been able to sell them). After that they released him.

However, on March 10 Captain Kyaw Zayar Win and his men again came and took Ko Kyi away. When his family learned about this, they went looking for him, and finally they found him at the strategic command headquarters in Kyaukkyi. They were told that they would have to pay the money immediately if they wanted him released.

While the family were trying to get the money together, they heard that Ko Kyi was already sent to Armed Battalion 13 to serve as a porter in the hilly regions. They have not seen or heard of him since.

In April 2007, concerned persons lodged complaints with all of the senior government and army authorities about Ko Kyi’s disappearance, asking to know what had happened to him and for legal action against the perpetrators if he is found to have been killed, or for his immediate return to his family if still alive. But these are not known to have so far yielded any result.


Since 2006, the government authorities in Burma have made many public announcements encouraging persons to complain about wrongdoing by state officers. But despite these, in the cases documented by the AHRC where persons try to make complaints there is at best no result and at worse the complainants are themselves charged with some offence. See for instance the recent case of human rights defenders in the delta region: UP-082-2007. Most of the cases documented by the AHRC involve police and local authorities. Those that involve army officers, as in this case, are even less likely to succeed.

The army in Burma has for many years forcibly taken porters to carry ammunitions and supplies for its troops in the regions affected by civil war, where there are no roads. Many have died from assault, exhaustion and sickness; others have fled into neighbouring countries or back to their hometowns. The International Labour Organisation has a mandate to work with the authorities to eliminate forced labour in the country, which has been made illegal since 1999; however, its progress has been slow, and complainants to its office have also in the past been targetted by the authorities.

Rights groups have widely documented the use of convict porters, and some allege that it is increasing as the army has been pressed to use fewer civilians from local areas. See for instance: “Less than human” (KHRG) and “From prison to frontline” (Burma Issues)

The army authorities in Burma also routinely and openly extort money from villagers and local residents, on various pretexts. On this and related topics, see the 1999 Voice of the Hungry Nation report of the People’s Tribunal on Food Scarcity and Militarisation in Burma.

See further the 2006 AHRC Human Rights Report chapter on Burma, and visit the AHRC Burma homepage: http://burma.ahrchk.net. 


Please write to the Minister of Home Affairs and other concerned persons below calling for an immediate investigation into this case to identify the whereabouts or circumstances of Maung Ko Kyi. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Disappearance of Maung Ko Kyi after being taken as a porter by IB 590

Name of victim: Maung Ko Kyi (a.k.a. Maung Ko Ko Kyi) , 41, fish breeder, resident of Wetu village, Myabago tract, Hypu Township, Bago Division (National ID card no. 7/KaTaKha [Naing] 007139)
Alleged perpetrators: Captain Kyaw Zayar Win and personnel of Infantry Battalion 590
Date of incident: 10 March 2006 
Place of incident: Inkabar village, Kyaukkyi Township, Bago Division

I am writing to ask for inquiries into the current circumstances of Maung Ko Kyi, who was allegedly abducted by personnel of Myanmar Armed Forces Infantry Battalion 590 on 10 March 2006 and, despite complaints by concerned persons, whose whereabouts since shortly after that have been unknown.

According to the information made available to me, on 12 February 2006 Captain Kyaw Zayar Win and his men took Ko Kyi with them to Ohnshithkin village and demanded 300,000 Kyat (USD 250). They released him, but on March 10, before he paid the money they again came and took him away. When his family learned about this, they went looking for him first at the battalion headquarters, then at Infantry Battalion 60 headquarters, and then at the Strategic Command headquarters in Kyaukkyi, where they found him. They were told that they would have to pay the money immediately if they wanted him released. They started to collect the money, but before they paid it they heard that Ko Kyi was already sent to Armed Battalion 13 to serve as a porter for the army in the hilly regions. They have not seen or heard from him since. They have lodged complaints asking for information on his whereabouts up to the present time, without success.

I am aware that the authorities in Myanmar have made repeated public announcements in recent times encouraging persons who have suffered wrongdoing at the hands of state officers to make complaints to the concerned authorities. However, it is extremely disheartening to see that those persons who do complain seem to be either met with no response, as is reported in this case, or are instead themselves targetted for legal or extralegal retribution by the authorities.

To make announcements about complaints meaningful it is necessary to ensure some form of redress for the complainants. The public must be given confidence that the authorities are acting to investigate and where necessary, to prosecute and punish the alleged perpetrators of wrongdoing, and protect witnesses and compensate victims and their families. I call for all of these necessary steps to be taken in this case. Please see to it that this family knows what has become of their loved one, and that if he is still alive, he be returned to them at once; if not, they must be compensated and the persons responsible for his death prosecuted.

I also take the opportunity to call for stronger cooperation between the government of Myanmar and the International Labour Organisation in order to see that it is able to carry out its mandate effectively and eliminate all practices of forced labour, including porterage, from its country, in accordance with Order No. 1/99 and the Supplementary Order. I am aware that there has recently been a new agreement signed between the organisation and government and call for the utmost effort to see that agreement properly carried out in order that no more families suffer the loss currently felt by that of Maung Ko Kyi.

Yours sincerely


Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +951 250 315 / 374 789
Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208


1. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Acting Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

2. U Aye Maung 
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

3. Maj-Gen. Ko Ko
Southern Command Headquarters

4. Mr. Homayoun Alizadeh
Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific of OHCHR
UN Secretariat Building, 6th Fl., Room A-601
Rajdamnern Nok Ave.
Bangkok 10200,
Tel: +662 288 1496
Fax: +662 288 3009

5. Mr Steve Marshall
Liaison Officer (Myanmar)
International Labour Organization (ILO)
4, route des Morillons
CH-1211 Geneva 22
Fax: +41 22 798 8685
E-mail: marshall@ilo.org

6. Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro
Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
Attn: Mr. Laurent Meillan
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 9179 281
E-mail: lmeillan@ohchr.org

7. Mr. Santiago Corcuera Cabezut
UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9176

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme.

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-226-2007
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Enforced disappearances and abductions, Impunity, Judicial system, Rule of law,