More than 50 young men from villages in Mong Pan township of eastern Myanmar’s volatile Shan state have been forcibly recruited by an ethnic armed group that is engaged in hostilities with the national army, a local official from the ruling National League for Democracy party said Monday.
Soldiers from the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) took boys from a few villages in Mong Pan, Nay Zaw Naing, chairman of the NLD in nearby Namhsan township, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Four of the 50 are NLD members in their 20s who live in Konekat village, he said.
“The Langkho district NLD secretary told me that about 50 young men from a few villages, including four young men who are NLD members from Konekat village, were taken by the RCSS/SSA,” Nay Zaw Neing said.
“We can’t accept this,” he said. “The NLD youth have a lot of work to do for the party.”
The RCSS/SSA compiled a list of young men in the area and informed their parents that it would recruit them as new members, he said.
The boys went with the RCSS/SSA because they did not want the ethnic militia to threaten their parents if they refused, Nay Zaw Naing said, adding that he has informed Shan state’s NLD party headquarters about the forced recruits.
“We have heard that all the young boys have already been sent to a military training center,” he said. “Their parents are very worried, and we are worried too.”
RCSS/SSA spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Sai Oo told RFA that he was not aware of the forced recruitment in the villages and could not confirm it.
Fighting between Myanmar forces and the RCSS/SSA that began on July 9 in Hanngin and Hikhe villages of the state’s Mong Kung township forced about 500 residents to flee to safety in monasteries.
Four days of fighting between the two sides left 12 Myanmar army troops and one RCSS/SSA soldier dead, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
The hostilities began two days before the Myanmar government opened the third round of its key 21st-Century Panglong Conference to bring ethnic armies, the military, and other stakeholders to the negotiating table in a bid to end decades of armed conflict and strained relations with ethnic minority groups.
Though the RCSS/SSA is one of 10 ethnic militias that has signed the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA), Myanmar forces have recently entered areas controlled by the ethnic army, causing tensions to escalate.
Sai Oo told RFA last week that the actions of government forces and a lack of confirmation of restricted areas between the two armies were to blame for the latest skirmish.
The Myanmar military has said that the RCSS must inform the government if it wants to enter restricted areas and has warned troops to return to their former bases from new areas in southern Shan state that it says are not included in the peace accord.
Rights groups have accused both government troops and ethnic soldiers of human rights violations in Myanmar’s conflict zones, including kidnapping, torturing, and killing civilians, and forcing them to work as laborers and as recruits.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.