Prison inmates sent to front-line fighting between the Burmese army and a rebel faction have been used by the regime's armed forces as human mine sweepers.
Some of the 600 prisoners sent to the border with Thailand suffered serious injuries after they were forced walk ahead of troops across minefields.
One rights group said it amounted to a "crime against humanity". The human mine sweepers had originally been forced into military service and used as porters carrying ammunition, according to three prisoners who escaped and made it to the Thai border town of Mae Sot.
The abuse of the prisoners led to outrage and shock even though Burma's armed forces regularly torture opponents, raze rebel villages and use rape as a weapon of war. "This shouldn't happen in any situation," Bo Kyi, of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, told The Irrawaddy magazine.
"They are, in effect, executing prisoners by other means. It would definitely constitute a crime against humanity."
The three escapers were among 30 inmates from Pakokku Jail sent to a Burmese army camp in the province bordering Mae Sot in December.