About 500 foreigners including nearly 200 Thai nationals are reportedly being held by regime forces in the town of Laukkai, northeastern Shan State, where fighting between the junta and an ethnic alliance is escalating.
The captives include 189 Thais and other nationals of countries such as Nepal, Ethiopia, and Laos.
The foreigners were recently rescued from online scam businesses operating in the area. However, the junta-controlled anti-human trafficking unit has sent them to military camps rather than handing them over to authorities from their respective countries, humanitarian workers say.
“The army is using them as forced labor to build bunkers, dig trenches, and carry timber. They are practically human shields,” a person who has joined efforts to rescue the victims told the Irrawaddy.
Humanitarian workers say the foreigners are being held in front-line outposts where their lives are at risk from fighting that could erupt at any time, stressing they need to be handed over to their home countries or China.
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