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Police in Shan State’s Kengtung Township on Saturday detained eight people, including a Chinese national, who were caught wearing the uniforms of local militia members, and were found to be in possession of drugs and bullets.
Kengtung police station’s vice-superintendent Win Than told DVB that the eight were travelling in a Toyota Lexus on the Airport Road around 1pm on 4 September when they were stopped at a police checkpoint. They were unable to show any proof that they belonged to the militia, and the officials found four amphetamine pills in the vehicle.
“The eight, including the Chinese national, were dressed in militia uniforms, but were unable to show any proof. We also found four ya-ba [amphetamine] pills in their possession,” said Win Than, adding that the police went to search their hotel room afterwards and found drug paraphernalia and ten .22 bullets.
He said a 22-year-old Chinese and seven Burmese, aged between 19 and 48, have been arrested and charged under Penal Code Article 170 for impersonating civil servants, as well as narcotics and immigration offences.
This is not the first time that a Chinese national has been arrested in Burma for military-related activities. In August 2014, a group of eight Chinese nationals was nabbed after a high-speed car chase at Tamu, near the Indian border. They were sentenced to jail terms of up to 13 years after being found guilty of weapons possession, illegal entry into Burma, and illegal possession of radio communication devices.
One of the suspects reportedly confessed they had received military training in Kokang region, but killed an officer and drove off in his car.
Various people’s militia groups, or PMGs, are known to be active in the region. According to the Myanmar Peace Monitor, PMGs operate differently from both ethnic armed groups, which are completely autonomous, and border guard forces, which operate under Burmese military command.
“[A PMG] does not have a military structure and there are no soldiers from the Myanmar Army serving in the PMG,” according to the Myanmar Peace Monitor website. “There is no ranking system in the PMG and it is run in a group leadership style. The PMG does not have an exact number of soldiers like the BGF. For instance: a BGF has 326 troopers in a battalion but a PMG has less than 100 soldiers. PMG soldiers do not need to attend military training provided by the Myanmar Army and they do not get their salary from the Myanmar Army. Nevertheless its activities are monitored by the Myanmar Army.
“It also does not need to fully participate in military operations. It is only responsible for assisting the Myanmar Army, for example showing the way to headquarters or camps of ethnic armed groups and collecting information about ethnic armed groups for the Myanmar Army.
“PMG leaders are permitted to run businesses in their active area to finance their activities. However they are not allowed to patrol outside their active area and are not allowed to use heavy weapons.”