The Manpang People’s Militia Force has embarked on a forced recruitment drive in rural villages around Lashio, northern Shan State, local villagers have told DVB.
According to a member of the Mong Kyat village tract administrative committee, the people’s militia turned up in the village one week ago and demanded that one person be handed over from each hamlet.
“They gave us three days to send the conscripts to their headquarters,” he said. “This is harvest time, so it is hard to get anyone to enlist. It is a busy time for everyone. Last week, many cattle died from an infection and farmers were very upset. This recruitment drive is just making us even more stressed out.”
He added: “They did not threaten us, saying they will do this or that if we don’t comply. But sometimes they do hit us. Or if a young lad runs away, they will detain his father. Only when the son comes back to the militia will his father be released. Last week, a young man from Mong Kyat took leave to return home after serving in the militia for two years. He did not go back, but instead took off for China. So the paramilitaries came and took away his father and beat him severely. He was eventually released, but is still receiving medical treatment for his injuries.”
The village committee member told DVB on Saturday that the deadline for compliance with the conscription order had passed two days before.
In nearby Nampong village tract, the Manpang People’s Militia Force recently produced a list with the names of young men from each hamlet and village in the tract.
“Out of each three boys, they had to draw lots to determine which one would have to join the militia,” said Sai Hla Htwe, an executive member of the National League for Democracy in Nampong.
“Each village tract contains about six or seven hamlets or villages,” he continued. “And there are about 18 village tracts in Lashio township. So they are drafting lots of youths at this time.”
He said on Saturday that the village elders had been given until 15 June to select its recruits, but that time had passed two days ago. “The militiamen have not yet come back,” he said.
Sai Hla Htwe added that a local MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy had spoken to Burmese military officials about the forced conscription campaign, and that the officers pledged to “negotiate and resolve the matter.”
The Manpang People’s Militia Force is led by Bo Mon, previously a ranking member of the now defunct Mong Tai Army chaired by late drug warlord Khun Sa. The Manpang militia is backed by the Burmese army and is reported to have had a relatively free rein around Lashio and Tangyan townships in recent years.
Last year, the Shan Human Rights Foundation released a report alleging that the Manpang militia was assisting the Burmese military in providing security for private coal mine projects in Shan State’s Hsipaw Township.