Over 100 villagers from Mongyang Township in eastern Shan State have fled their homes this year due to rumors that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) would come to forcibly recruit them.
The 105 people from Wankan and Kyaikham villages have left their homes and are now staying in another community in Mongloi village tract, according to the Mongloi village administrator, Sai Loi Kyauk.
“Twenty households have fled to our village since the end of January,” he said. “They were terrified by the rumors that Wa soldiers would come for recruitment.”
Locals have been providing those displaced with shelter, rice and clothing, the administrator said.
“We are Shan and they are ethnic Palaung, who ran from the next mountain,” he said of the displaced families, referring to the Ta’ang by their name in the Shan language. “No such incident has happened before here.”
A UWSA spokesperson, Kyauk Shauk Hpu, told The Irrawaddy that his organization had no knowledge of the displacement or the rumors of conscription. Kyauk Kaw Arn, the head of UWSA’s international relations department, also denied the allegations.
“The UWSA does not do any forced recruitment of our local people. The news on the state-run media is not a concrete source. There are no residents running from our area,” he said.
On Wednesday, the military-owned Myawaddy newspaper stated that the UWSA had been recruiting one person per household and that every man and woman over 16 years old would have to join their armed group.
Mongyang Township is not under the official control of the UWSA, but their troops are known to be active in the region. The Wa army was given a self-administrated region including six Shan State townships—Panghsang, Hopang, Mongmao, Panwai, Nahpan and Metma—according to provisions in Article 56(f) of the 2008 military-backed Constitution. But Wa authorities have also spoken of expanding their area of influence, citing the existence of Wa communities in other townships.
Headquartered in Panghsang, the UWSA is estimated to have between 20,000 and 25,000 troops, making it the largest of Burma’s many ethnic armed groups. The group signed a ceasefire with Burma’s military government in 1989, but has since been involved in armed conflict with other ethnic armed groups in Shan State.