Rebel groups kill officials recruiting for Myanmar’s junta

Faced with the wrath of residents and rebel groups, some administrators are simply refusing junta orders.
By RFA Burmese
2024.03.23
Rebel groups kill officials recruiting for Myanmar’s junta
Photo: RFA

Rebel groups around Myanmar have killed at least six officials documenting draft-eligible residents this week, undermining the junta’s efforts to roll out the country’s military conscription law, sources said Friday.

The killings follow the junta’s Feb. 10 enactment of the law, with a plan to begin conscription in April to shore up troop shortages resulting from 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 Feb. 1, 2021 coup d’etat.

In recent weeks, 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.

On Thursday, the anti-junta People’s Defense Force, or PDF, from Bago region’s Pyay township attacked Myint Swe and Ko Phyo – the administrator and office clerk of Thegon township’s Zigon village – as they rode a motorcycle home after compiling a list of draft-eligible residents in nearby Thar Paung village, residents said.

Myint Swe was shot dead and Ko Phyo was gravely wounded in the 11:30 am attack, an official from the Thegon Township Social Assistance Association told RFA. Ko Phyo was taken to a hospital for treatment in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon, 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the south, he said.

“We had to go because the police informed us,” he said. “One died and one was sent to Yangon Hospital from Thegon.”

The PDF has not claimed responsibility for the attack.

Thandwe township killings

Also on Thursday, in Rakhine state’s Thandwe township, unidentified attackers killed Win Shwe, the head of 100 households in Dar Wa village’s Shwe Hlaw village tract, as he returned home from the township seat, where he was documenting residents eligible for military service.

Win Shwe’s body was discovered on Thursday evening under a pile of leaves in a creek bed near Dar Wa, according to a village resident, who said he was likely targeted because of his role in military recruitment.

“According to the people who took the body, he died of stab wounds to the neck,” he said. “Now, in Thandwe Township, the administrators and the 100 household leaders of the villages are collecting lists for military service. But none of the villagers want to join the army.”

The PDF in Magway region’s Yenangyaung township claimed responsibility for the Wednesday shooting deaths of Tin Win Khaing and San Naing, the administrator and clerk of Oke Shit Kone village tract, as they returned home from compiling draft lists in the township seat.

A PDF official told RFA on Friday that his group warned the men not to take part in the conscription process on five separate occasions before carrying out the attack.

“We repeatedly warned them with calls and letters,” he said. “Nobody [publicly] spoke out against them because they were armed and protected by the junta, so we were compelled to act after receiving numerous complaints.”

The PDF official claimed that the men had been “collecting money” and “choosing people at random” to serve, instead of using a lottery system. RFA was unable to independently verify the official’s claims.

Families threatened

Also in Magway, members of the Salin Township PDF shot and killed Myint Htoo, the administrator of Pu Khat Taing village, as he called on residents to enlist for military service with a loudspeaker on Monday, 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.

The junta has yet to issue an official statement on any of the killings.

Attempts by RFA to contact junta spokesmen in the regions and states where the attacks occurred went unanswered Friday, with the exception of Tin Oo in Bago region, who refused to comment, citing an ongoing investigation and the sensitive nature of the incident.

Residents said junta troops are threatening families with arrest and violence if their sons and daughters refuse to serve in the military after being selected by lottery.

Meanwhile, the country’s PDFs are issuing warnings to anyone helping to enforce the junta’s conscription campaign.

Refusing orders

Facing the wrath of residents and the PDF on one side and pressure from the junta to fill recruitment quotas, some administrators have simply refused orders to compile lists of those eligible for military service.

Village and ward administrators in Rakhine’s Munaung township told RFA on Friday that at a March 15 meeting at the township’s General Administration Department Hall, junta authorities ordered them to recruit up to five people between the ages of 24 and 30 per village tract.

“[Junta troops] asked if there had been a census conducted and told us we had to sign a document [agreeing to their recruitment terms],” said one administrator, who declined to be named. “However, we informed them of our inability to proceed.”

The administrator said that no one had resigned, and that there was “no immediate military pressure” to comply.

“However, the local youth are reluctant to participate, feeling fearful and evasive,” he said.

Administrators of all of Munaung township’s 41 villages and wards refused to carry out the recruitment order, he said.

Another administrator confirmed the refusal, saying that he, like the others, “always orient myself towards the people.”

RFA was unable to reach Hla Thein, the junta’s attorney general and spokesperson for Rakhine state, for comment on the administrators’ refusal to follow recruitment orders.

In Rakhine’s Thandwe township, 21 village tract administrators submitted their resignations on Monday, citing the junta’s orders to compile military service lists and form militias.

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

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