Pro-Junta Monks and Militia Coercing Supplies and Money from Upper Myanmar Villagers

By The Irrawaddy 5 December 2022

Nationalist monks and pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia have been forcing a village in Sagaing Region to supply them with food and money, according to local sources.

Each of the 70 households in Sein Nar, a small village on the border of Kantbalu and Taze townships, has been forced to supply 30,000 kyats, 10 liters of rice and one liter of cooking oil monthly.

The monks and militia are led by influential monk U Wasawa from the ultranationalist Association for Protection of Race and Religion, better known as Ma Ba Tha,

Pyu Saw Htee members have also been forcing males aged between 18 and 55 to undergo military training, or risk having their villages torched and their farmland and possessions seized, according to Kantbalu residents.

Households in Sein Nar are also being made to pay as much as seven to eight million kyats to avoid conscription. “[Pyu Saw Htee members] have seized cellphones from the entire village so that residents can’t tell others what is happening in their village,” said a source.

Many male villagers have been coerced into attending military training, while some have fled to other towns. Pyu Saw Htee militia, though, are forcing male villagers working elsewhere to return to their villages and join local militias, according to a Kantbalu resident who wished to remain anonymous.

One Sein Nar villager said: “They forced villagers to phone their male relatives and ask them to return. Female villagers are being forced to guard the village day and night in houses on the outskirts, while they [Pyu Saw Htee] live in the center of the village. They said they would seize the houses and farms of those who flee from the village. So we dare not leave.”

Military training is being supervised by a Myanmar military officer, five other soldiers and hardcore Pyu Saw Htee leaders. Around 100 armed Pyu Saw Htee militia provide security around the village during the training sessions.

Pyu Saw Htee members are also demanding money from Kantbalu villages to pay the salaries of full-time members. They have reportedly been demanding at least 10,000 kyats per month from each household.

A number of Kantbalu villages have become Pyu Saw Htee bases, with U Wasawa forcing villagers to join the militias. Previously armed with homemade weapons, around 900 Pyu Saw Htee members in Kantbalu have been supplied with modern BA-63 (G-3) rifles, MA-1 assault rifles and carbines.

U Wasawa, a well-known Buddhist leader in Kanbalu, Kyunhla and Taze townships, has been forming Pyu Saw Htee groups since November last year, said residents.

One local resistance fighter said: “Pyu Saw Htee militias are getting stronger in Kantbalu Township partly because of the weakness of People’s Defense Force (PDF) units. The PDF’s have failed to rally villages to their cause. In my opinion this is because the district and township authorities of the [parallel] National Unity Government are ineffective. In these circumstances, U Wasawa and others can coerce villagers into joining Pyu Saw Htee militias. This is the reason why the Pyu Saw Htee have grown significantly in numbers.”

Resistance forces in the region are facing logistical problems caused by the increased presence of pro-regime militias.

The military regime has denied forming Pyu Saw Htee militias as a proxy force, saying it only allows the establishment, training and arming of militias at the request of locals for their security. Formation of these militias is legal, the junta has said.