More than 170 locals from two villages in Mawkmai Township, southern Shan State have fled their homes, fearing conscription by an ethnic armed group.
Locals from Pone Sote and Me Ta Se villages are currently taking shelter at a monastery in the village of Na Hi, director Khun Nay Htoo of the Pa-Oh Health Working Committee (PHWC), which is providing healthcare to them, told The Irrawaddy.
“There are 104 villagers from Me Ta Se, and 74 from Pone Sote. Most of them are Pa-O or Karenni. They fled respectively on May 9 and 12,” Khun Nay Htoo told The Irrawaddy.
According to Khun Nay Htoo, people who claimed to be commanders of the Shan State Restoration Council/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) arrived at the two villages during the first week of May and told locals in Shan language to enlist or they would be forced out of their villages.
Villagers told Khun Nay Htoo that they were unsuccessful in dissuading the commanders, so they fled with their families.
Lt-Col Sai Meung, an RCSS spokesperson, denied the conscription.
“This must be a misunderstanding. We have not conscripted anyone since we signed the NCA [nationwide ceasefire agreement]. I’m afraid this was someone else’s handiwork,” said Lt-Col Sai Meung.
The RCSS signed the NCA with former President U Thein Sein’s administration in Oct. 2015. According to the NCA, signatories are not allowed to recruit new members.
“Villagers said they have faced conscription in the past. They fled this time because they were threatened,” said Khun Nay Htoo.
Currently, only the monastery in Na Hi Village is providing them with food and shelter.
The Irrawaddy phoned a number of civil society organizations engaged in providing relief for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Shan State and all of them replied that they were unaware of the situation.
U Nay Lin, a volunteer helping IDPs said: “Villagers who live near armed groups always face this [conscription]. This news is not new in both northern and southern Shan State.”
Last February, more than 100 locals fled their homes in Mongyang Township in eastern Shan State after rumors circulated that the United Wa State Army (UWSA) would conscript new members.
The UWSA also denied planned conscription and told The Irrawaddy that its troops were not stationed in that area.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.