KIO Denies Allegations of Forced Recruitment in Shan State

By Nyein Nyein 4 January 2016

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has refuted allegations from a Shan political party that it forcibly recruited villagers in Kutkai and Muse townships in northern Shan State.

The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) made the allegation against the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), in a statement on Saturday, warning the armed group that it risked raising tensions during a period of political transition.

“We condemn such acts against civilians and ask for the immediate release of those arrested,” the statement read. “The public’s safety and tranquility should be a priority at this time, when everyone is putting their efforts primarily into national reconciliation.”

Dau Hka, a member of the KIO’s technical advisory team based in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the matter was “not related to the KIO/KIA.”

“I have checked with the headquarters and they have no knowledge about it,” he said, adding that there were many small armed groups and factions in northern Shan State, and the issue may have been one of mistaken identity.

Civilians in Muse and Kutkai townships were allegedly forcibly recruited into the KIA’s ranks last month, when many ethnic Shan were preparing for New Year festivities, according to Sai Nyunt Lwin, secretary of the SNLD.

“We have to respond to the public’s demands as over a dozen ethnic Shan and Palaung [Ta’ang] from four to five villages disappeared,” Sai Nyunt Lwin said.

Villagers received a letter from the KIA requesting that they contribute seven civilians from each village to the armed group, the SNLD secretary said, adding that such recruitment drives of ethnic nationalities were not uncommon.

Dau Hka said the KIO had stopped actively recruiting civilians since clashes with the Burma Army in Kachin State’s Mohnyin Township in November. He said the group had been running a two-year service program in which recruits join voluntarily.

The SNLD said they have been trying to contact representatives of the Shan State Progressive Party / Shan State Army-North, which has good relations with the KIO, to negotiate on the issue.

Renewed clashes broke out in northern Shan State on Sunday, including in Muse Township, between government troops and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).