Killings of junta military recruiters rise to 17, tripling in last week

Rebels warn local officials not to force youths into the military. ‘If they don’t follow our instructions, we will take action against them,’ one group said.
By RFA Burmese
2024.03.27
Killings of junta military recruiters rise to 17, tripling in last week Junta soldiers march during a parade to mark the 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw, March 27, 2023.
Myo Kyaw Soe/Xinhua via Getty Images

At least 17 local officials carrying out the junta’s conscription efforts have been killed since a draft law was enacted early last month, according to rebel officials and residents.

The number of killings has more than tripled in the last week, ahead of the official start of conscription, which the junta has said will take place in April. On March 23, RFA reported a total of six such killings.

The junta enacted the “People’s Military Service Law” on Feb. 10 to replenish its military ranks after months of mounting losses and surrenders to insurgents in Myanmar’s three-year civil war.

In the weeks since the announcement, youths in many cities have fled abroad or to rebel-controlled territories to avoid the draft, refusing to fight for the military that seized control of the country in a February 2021 coup d’etat.

RFA has received reports of forced recruitment and officials compiling lists of residents of fighting age, as well as draft lotteries to select who will serve.

But rebel forces are fighting back against those doing the junta’s bidding, according to sources who spoke to RFA Burmese on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

As of Tuesday, at least 17 village- and township-level general administration officials and other related personnel, including clerks and heads of 100 households, have been assassinated in Bago, Magway, Sagaing and Mandalay regions, as well as Rakhine, Mon and Kachin states, sources told RFA Burmese.

When asked about the killings, an administrative officer in Yangon region’s South Dagon township said there had been no resistance to recruitment in his ward, which had been implemented through a lottery last week.

He suggested that only “corrupt officials” had been targeted after accepting bribes to keep some draft-eligible youth out of the selection process, while “those who worked transparently have remained unharmed.”

List of victims grows

The earliest instance of an official being killed for their role in military recruitment took place on Feb. 20, when an administrator for Shin Thabyay Pin village in Magway’s Taungdwingyi township named Nan Win was found dead. 

Members of the local anti-junta People’s Defense Force, or PDF, claimed responsibiliity, saying he was killed after pressuring residents to join military training.

On March 18, members of the Salin Township PDF shot and killed Myint Htoo, the administrator of Pu Khat Taing village in Magway’s Salin township, as he called on residents to enlist for military service with a loudspeaker, according to sources in the township.

The following day, unidentified attackers killed Maung Pu, the administrator of Mandalay region’s Wundwin township, while he worked to recruit soldiers for the junta, township residents said. Details of the attack were not immediately available.

On March 20, Tin Win Khaing, the administrative officer of Oke Shit Kone village in Magway’s Yenangyaung township, and his clerk San Naing, were also killed.

On March 22 and 24, Mya Mye Nyein, a junior clerk at the General Administration Office in Sagaing’s Shwebo township, and Nan Nwe Oo, the administrator of Shwebo’s Ward No. 4, were shot dead.

Both had distributed leaflets calling on people to join the military and were deeply involved in the recruitment process, said a resident of Shwebo, who identified himself as Oat Aaw and claimed that a guerrilla group known as Shwebo Ar Mann had carried out the assassinations.

Rebels issue warnings

San Lwin, the administrator of Taung Ka Lay village in Mon’s Kyaikhto township, was also shot dead on his way to work on March 24. He had handed over a list of local draft-eligible residents to township officials, a leader of the anti-junta Kyaikhto Revolution Force told RFA.

“We have issued a notice to local administrative officials instructing them not to cause harm to the people, and not to force youths into the military, in accordance with the junta's order,” the rebel leader said. “If they don’t follow our instructions, we will take action against them."

 

The PDF issued a similar warning in the third week of March, stating that ward members from various regions and states would be “punished appropriately” if they forcibly pressured people to serve in the military.

National and staff IDs of Mya Mya Nyein, the junior clerk of Shwebo Township General Administration Office. (Shwebo Ar Mann Guerrilla Group)
National and staff IDs of Mya Mya Nyein, the junior clerk of Shwebo Township General Administration Office. (Shwebo Ar Mann Guerrilla Group)

Political commentator Than Soe Naing said he expects the killings will continue unless the junta halts its implementation of the military service law.

"The public’s anger was clearly sparked by the junta’s decision to enact the law,” he said.

The public backlash has also prompted some administrators to resign, saying they won’t be able to comply with the junta’s order.

Last week, 21 administrators in Rakhine’s Thandwe township collectively resigned, accounting for more than one-third of the heads of Thandwe’s 62 village-tracts. Similar resignations have taken place in Yangon region’s Thanlyin and Sanchaung townships, and Bago region’s Nat Than Kwin village.

Blazes in Ayeyarwady

Buildings being used in the junta’s recruitment drive have also burned under mysterious circumstances in Ayeyarwady region’s Hinthada and Yegyi townships in recent days, according to residents.

On Sunday, the rear of an administrative office in Hinthada’s Ka Naung Su ward caught fire at approximately 8 pm, while a draft lottery was underway, a resident of the ward told RFA.

While some residents attributed the fire to faulty electrical wiring, others suggested it had been set by someone opposing the recruitment drive.

On March 19, the residence of Administrator Kyaw Moe in Hinthada’s Oke Hpo Chaung village, was set on fire while he was recruiting for the military in the front yard, according to a resident of the village.

Damage was minimal, as those present acted quickly to put out the blaze, he added.

The same day, the house of a Yegyi ward administrator was also destroyed by fire, although details remained unclear.

Residents characterized the fires as “arson” and said the incidents were motivated by anger over the implementation of the conscription law.

Attempts by RFA to contact Khin Maung Kyi, the junta’s social affairs minister and spokesperson for Ayeyarwady region, went unanswered Wednesday.

Mandalay recruitment drive

Meanwhile, residents say there has been a push for recruitment in central Myanmar’s Mandalay region, with administrative authorities actively compiling military service rosters and threatening punishment for those who resist.

Recruitment activities were most prevalent in Mandalay’s Chan Mya Thazi and Maha Aung Mye townships, they said, and census-taking is underway throughout the region.

Residents also reported that authorities manning checkpoints along roads connecting Mandalay to Sagaing region have intensified their scrutiny of passing vehicles, looking for anyone trying to escape the draft.

A resident of Mandalay said the junta is issuing threats of arrest and punishment for entire families of youths evading service.

"There are ominous warnings of apprehending family members of those aged between 18 and 35 on [recruitment] lists, should they refuse military service," she said.

A resident of Patheingyi township said local administrators have openly told people to pay them money in order to avoid service.

"It is said that if we don't want to go, we can give them money to arrange for a replacement,” she said.

Thein Htay, the junta’s minister of economy and spokesperson for Mandalay region, did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

The military has said that it will enlist draft-eligible citizens in batches of 5,000 monthly, beginning in April.

According to data released last week by independent research group Data for Myanmar, the junta had commenced implementation of the military service law in 172 townships nationwide as of March 22.

Translated by Aung Naing and Kalyar Lwin. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.

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