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Shan people refusing conscription by armed group

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Human rights activists told DVB that Shan people are refusing to be conscripted into the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), an Ethnic Armed Organization (EAO) based in southern Shan State. 

The RCSS announced its own conscription law on Feb. 19 – nine days after Naypyidaw enforced military conscription nationwide for all men aged 18 to 35 and women aged 18 to 27. 

The regime law, drafted in 2010 under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), states that those eligible must serve two years in the military or face a maximum punishment of up to five years in prison.

The RCSS drafted its conscription law in 1996. It requires men and women in Shan State aged 18 to 45 to serve up to six years. But it did not clarify what the punishment is for those who avoid conscription. 

“[RCSS] should oppose the regime’s conscription law rather than announcing its own law,” said a Shan activist on the condition of anonymity. “As a young man, I would not hesitate to serve in the [RCSS], but is it to fight against the regime or to attack the public who is resisting the regime?”

Kham San, the RCSS spokesperson, told DVB that it will seize properties of those residing in RCSS territory who leave to avoid conscription. Land that has not had occupants for three or more years will also be seized. 

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party General Secretary Sai Leik said that it is not a good time for the RCSS to enforce its conscription and property laws due to the nationwide crisis caused by the 2021 military coup.

The Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), another EAO based in Shan State, invited Shan people to serve in its armed wing – rather than announcing enforced conscription – last week. 

Myanmar’s Shan State borders China, Laos and Thailand. Besides the two Shan EAOs, Shan State is home to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), which signed a ceasefire with the regime on Jan. 11. 

Shan State media reports that all EAOs in the region are now competing with the military regime in Naypyidaw to conscript new recruits in the coming months.  

Military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun told regime media on Feb. 21 that women will not be conscripted. The RCSS signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in 2015 and has met for talks with the regime in Naypyidaw since the 2021 military coup.

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