Ten ethnic Ta’ang civilians have been arrested by the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and conscripted to join its military in Hsipaw Township, northern Shan State, according to local sources.
Tar Aike Ywan, a resident of Mann Loi Village, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the civilians, ages 20-37, were arrested in the village on Sept. 6. One civilian was beaten and another had their hands tied when they refused to join the RCSS soldiers, he added.
Mann Loi is an ethnic Ta’ang village with over 100 households under the control of the RCSS.
The Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO) reported that the RCSS used a ballot lottery system to choose which residents in the village would be conscripted.
According to the TWO however, the 10 civilians arrested on Friday had drawn ballots last year indicating they would have to serve, but the RCSS military didn’t come to take them until now.
The TWO said some of the conscripted civilians have wives who are pregnant and due to deliver soon and they didn’t want to leave to join the RCSS army.
One older woman reportedly remained in her home after her son was taken away. According to Tar Aike Ywan, she has no one left to take care of her or work for her.
The RCSS denied engaging in forced recruitment or arresting 10 Ta’ang civilians in Mann Loi Village at all.
Colonel Sai Oo, a spokesperson for the RCSS, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that he did not know about a case of forced recruitment in Mann Loi Village. He said the RCSS does not have a policy of forcing local people to serve in its military.
He also said that the victims’ families could complain to the RCSS liaison office in Kyaukme Township. “They could give us the names of the people [recruited] and their ages when they come. We will find out about this,” he said.
Allegations of ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State engaging in forced recruitment are common, but many cases aren’t reported to authorities. Most ethnic armed groups only conscript civilians from their own ethnicities and not from other ethnic groups in the same region.
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