Government-backed militias in Shan state have reportedly demanded that village headmen in several townships appoint up to 25 locals to join their ranks, with those who refuse threatened with a hefty fine.
Locals in Manparng village, close to Shan state’s Tangyan township, said a militia based there had summoned headmen to select would-be fighters. Small villages were required to hand over 15 men, and larger villages 25.
The group warned that should the village headmen fail to do so, it would send their own recruitment teams and demand a fee of 3.8 million kyat ($US4,470).
“These militias get funding from the government so there’s no reason to extort money from us,” said one aggrieved inhabitant of Manparng. “We are afraid of armed groups close to our areas and we are unable to file a complaint about this – we don’t know where to complain.”
He said that locals were forced to give into the demands of “different militia groups”, many of whom have close links to Burmese government officials and who are rapidly becoming key players in Shan state’s lucrative narcotics market. The Manparng militia is thought to have around 1,000 troops and also operates in Lashio and Mongyai townships.
Residents of southern Shan state’s Lai-Hka township have also spoken of an apparent forced recruitment drive by members of the former Wan Pang militia, which was overrun by the Shan State Army last year.
The number of personnel in the militia dropped from around 800 to 30 following the defeat, and it has regrouped in Nam Hu Pra Htam village. Locals in nearby Kone Mai Hike village say each household was told to pay 60,000 kyat so the militia could recruit more soldiers, likely to compensate for the loss of manpower.
The Wan Pang militia was believed to have been heavily involved in the drugs’ trade, and ran a heroin factory in the state’s mountainous southern region. A ceasefire deal struck last year between the SSA and government included an agreement that the SSA would hand over drugs seized from the Wan Pang.