Myanmar’s junta threatens to raze villages to bolster army numbers

Soldiers have already targeted over 50 villages across central Myanmar, residents said.
By RFA Burmese
2024.01.15
Myanmar’s junta threatens to raze villages to bolster army numbers Members of the junta-led militia in Bago region on Oct. 15, 2023.
Myanmar military

Myanmar’s military junta is recruiting locals across more than 50 villages in the country’s central areas, locals told Radio Free Asia on Monday.

Up to 50 residents per village are required to serve in the regime’s militia in Bago region chosen through a raffle system, they added. 

The junta is recruiting civilians between the ages of 18 and 60 heavily from western and eastern Bago. Twenty villages in eastern Bago and 28 villages in western Bago have already been targeted, residents said. Village administration appointed by the regime has required eligible members of each household to enter a raffle system, where those selected must attend a month-long military training course. 

If villagers don’t cooperate, soldiers have threatened to burn down their villages, said a resident in western Bago region who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons. To be excused from service, they must pay between 800,000 kyat [US$380] and one million kyat [$476].

“The [junta] ordered one person per household to enlist. If not, the village will be burned down. When [soldiers] say something like that, people are afraid because they are villagers. They cannot afford to give people from every single house,” he said.

“People did not want their village to be burnt, so they agreed with the raffle system. Also, a soldier changed the requirement later to only 10 people from every single village who had to serve for the militia. But people who got selected by the raffle system to serve also do not want to join the militia.”

To be exempt from the raffle, residents are required to pay 100,000 kyat [$47] per household, they said. 

The military junta began asking for 50 people per village in eastern Bago starting from Friday, said a man from Hpa Yar Gyi village. 

“The [junta] is asking for between 50 and 60 people from our area. Let’s say there are 10 people in this village’s section – if two people are selected to join, they must go when the junta calls, whether they are at work or not,” he told RFA. “They have to join militia training. The junta just says joining training, but they have to go to the frontline after.”

The military has advertised that those who join the militia will be paid 120,000 kyat [$ 57] and provided a bag of rice per month, residents said. 

The junta started to implement the scheme after a meeting between military chiefs and pro-junta political parties on Jan 6.

Bago’s junta spokesperson Tin Oo told RFA Thursday that this method allows locals to protect their communities, adding that participating would help increase stability and public security. 

“No one wants terrorism,” he said. “[Serving in the militia] allows them to defend their homes and that depends on them preventing People’s Defense Force terrorists from getting into their villages.”

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.

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