Villagers from Nam San and Mong Ne townships in southern Shan State say they fled their homes recently to avoid a forced recruitment drive by the Shan State Army-South (SSA-South).
Officially known as the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army, or RCSS/SSA, the Shan militia has recently been engaged in several clashes against the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). The SSA-South is a signatory to the Burmese government’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, while the TNLA is part of a coalition known as the Northern Alliance which launched attacks on Burmese government positions in northern Shan State in November.
The Nam San and Mong Ne residents told DVB that 10 persons were conscripted from their villages on 3 January.
“The RCSS/SSA has a list of names of every person living in Nam San and Mong Ne,” said one villager on condition of anonymity. “They came looking for particular men. That’s why we fled.”
SSA-South spokesperson Lt-Col Sai Ngin rejected the accusations. “Our headquarters did not initiate any new policy of recruitment. This may be a misconception among the villagers,” he said.
However, villagers have told DVB that the practice of conscription by the SSA-South is so common in the area that every year many youngsters leave home and head to the Thai border or other towns to find work; consequently there are very few young people left in those villages.
In addition to ethnic Shan people, groups of Palaung or Ta’ang live in the Nam San and Mong Ne areas, as well as Pa-O and Lisu nationals.