Residents flee Myanmar’s delta as junta steps up recruitment efforts

Regime continues its search for troops days after threatening to burn down villages to procure more soldiers.
By RFA Burmese
2024.01.18
Residents flee Myanmar’s delta as junta steps up recruitment efforts The Kyonpyaw market in Ayeyarwady region on September 4, 2022.
Kyonpyaw Municipality

Villagers in southwest Myanmar are fleeing from forced military recruitment, locals told Radio Free Asia on Thursday. With the country’s regime forces increasing the quota of recruits per village, some have begun hiding to avoid service. 

Soldiers are now ordering 10 people per village to attend the junta’s military training, residents from Ayeyarwady region’s Kyonpyaw township said.  Recruiters have been heavily campaigning and pressuring residents in small villages, such as Moe Kyoe Pyit and Aing Ma, since Monday, they added.

If junta soldiers keep up their current quota, hundreds of people from the township will be forced to attend militia training, said a Kyonpyaw resident who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

“They are [targeting] sections in the township’s capital and surrounding villages. Ten people could be selected in a section, and there are more than 100 households in a section,” he said. “So about 200 or 300 people will be selected in the whole city.”

Rather than take their chances with the raffle, many are choosing instead to leave the area altogether. However, the exact number of residents who have fled is not yet known. 

RFA contacted Ayeyarwady region’s junta spokesperson Aung Thein Win to learn more about the recruitment process, but calls went unanswered on Thursday.

In October, residents said local administrators chose five people per village across at least seven Ayeyarwady villages, including Dee Du Kone, Thea Hpyu, and Moe Tein Pyin villages in Ngapudaw township. They accused junta forces of recruiting teen soldiers from the delta and bribing locals with cash. 

In December, the regime was again accused of recruiting former resistance fighters with offers of cash, food, and awards for surrendering. 

Since Friday, western Bago’s Nattalin and Thea Kone townships and eastern Bago’s Hpa Yar Gyi, Daik-U, and Taungoo townships have also reported being pressured into forced military training.

After attempting to recruit up to 50 people per village, soldiers threatened to burn down villages and demanded fines upward of 800,000 kyat (US$ 380) from those unwilling to serve. 

Bago township authorities ordered village administrators to recruit up to 30 men per village. In villages that cannot meet the recruitment requirements for militia training, locals said local men are being pressured to enlist through a raffle system.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.

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