Myanmar Junta-Allied Militia Forcing Sagaing Villagers into Military Training 

By The Irrawaddy 24 May 2023

Junta-affiliated Pyu Saw Htee militias have been forcing villagers in Sagaing Region’s Kantbalu and Kyun Hla townships to undergo military training, according to locals.

The militias have been formed over the past two years by influential monk U Wasawa of the ultranationalist Association for Protection of Race and Religion, known locally as Ma Ba Tha, to counter anti-regime People’s Defense Forces (PDFs).

On May 15, junta personnel forced residents of Htan Kone San Pya village in Htan Kone district, western Kantbalu, to undergo military training. Residents were selected for the training via a lottery of households organized by the village head. Selected households that did not contain any adult males will have to pay a monthly fine of 100,000 kyats (almost US$ 50), according to the Kyun Hla activist group.

Some villagers reportedly signed up after junta forces threatened to torch their houses unless they took part in the training.

U Wasawa addresses a Pyu Saw Htee militia group in 2022.

“Pyu Saw Htee join raids by regime troops, looting properties and torching villages,” a Kantbalu resident told The Irrawaddy.

A Kantbalu resident said Htan Kone district is the stronghold of Pyu Saw Htee militias because it is not too far from Kantbalu Town.

More than 50 of Kantbalu Township’s 250 villages are currently controlled by Pyu Saw Htee, according to the Infinity group, a local information network.

The group said that residents in Pyu Saw Htee villages were banned from moving to other areas. The militia also demands monthly payments and threatens to burn the houses of villagers who don’t comply.

On Saturday, a lottery held by the head of Lae Hla village in Kyun Hla Township selected 30 residents who will be forced to join Pyu Saw Htee military training, according to the Kyun Hla activist group.

However, in this case even all-female households will be conscripted.

“They [Pyu Saw Htee] are not accepting fines like before. If there is no male in the household, they said the widow must attend the training,” said a member of the Kyun Hla activist group.

There are no less than eight Pyu Saw Htee villages in Kyun Hla Township, which shares a border with Kantbalu Township.

A Kyun Hla local said the Pyu Saw Htee militias are supplied with both weapons and pay by the Myanmar military.

“Some villagers fled because they didn’t want to join the Pyu Saw Htee after it began organizing in Lae Hla village,” the Kyun Hla resident told The Irrawaddy.

A force of more than 100 regime troops and Pyu Saw Htee have been raiding villages in eastern and southern Kantbalu Township since last month. The force has torched 20 villages and killed four residents so far, according to the Infinity group.