The Irrawaddy

Civil Society Forum Calls for End to Forced Conscription

Civil society organizations (CSOs) meet for the 16th Civil Society Forum on Peace (CSFOP) in Rangoon on May 15-16. (Photo: Chanson/The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — The 16th session of the Civil Society Forum on Peace (CSFOP) has called for a countrywide halt to forced conscription.

Militia forces under the Burma Army and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) have been conscripting locals in Kachin and Shan states, according to the CSFOP, a quarterly gathering of more than 70 civil society organizations (CSOs) and networks, held at The Orchid Hotel in Rangoon on May 15-16.

U Tin Oo, the Secretary of the Northern Shan Civilian Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (CCMC)., said: “All the armed groups in northern Shan State are recruiting the locals without their consent.”

He said militia under the Burma Army based in the Kaung Kha area had been recruiting one person per household in the region’s Kutkai Township.

U Tin Oo also urged both sides to deescalate military tensions and refrain from planting mines in places accessible to civilians.

Daw Esther of the CSFOP claimed militias under the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) were forcibility conscripting in Kachin State.

“There is always recruitment when clashes are fierce,” said Mi Kun Chan Nom, a CSFOP delegate and spokesperson for Mon Women’s Organization. “But we call for a stop to forced recruitment. We urge both sides not to conscript.”

More than 170 locals fled their homes in Mawkmai Township, southern Shan State, for fear of conscription in the second week of May. According to the national ceasefire agreement, signatories are not allowed to recruit new members.

In an open letter of recommendations for the peace process, the CSFOP has asked the government, the Burma Army, and EAOs to stop conscription.

The letter urges the government to inform concerned signatories of the NCA two weeks in advance before holding national-level political dialogues in ethnic states so that they can properly prepare.

The letter also presses the government to clear mines, educate locals about the danger of mines, and not to block humanitarian aid for displaced people, but instead ensure aid for them in cooperation with CSOs.

It tells the government not to take action against CSOs under section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, introduced during the colonial era in 1908. Anyone who “aids and abets members of an unlawful association” can face two to three years in jail and a fine under the act. Most EAOs that have not signed the NCA are considered illegal organizations under the law.

In the letter, CSOs also urged the government to allow NCA non-signatories to participate in the discussion at the second round of the 21st Century Panglong peace conference, to begin on May 24.

Dated May 17, the letter was sent to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma Army chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee chairman Saw Kwe Htoo Win, and the Delegation for Political Negotiation of the United Nationalities Federal Council leader Khu Oo Reh.

Launched in August 2012, the CSFOP is held to represent and address the needs of people in the country’s peace process. In the 16th session of the CSFOP, 175 delegates were in attendance.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.