Junta Conscripts Ethnic Youths

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THURSDAY, 20 AUGUST 2009

The Irrawaddy – About 70 Chin teenagers in Matupi Township in Chin State in western Burma have been forced into military training, according to Chin sources.

Local sources said soldiers from Infantry Battalion No.304, which is based in Matupi Township, ordered nine villages to select at least eight youths over 18-years-old per village for military training.

“People have to work in the fields to grow paddy at this time of year [the rainy season]. We are short of food and no one wants to go for military training,” said a Chin resident in Matupi.

Matupi is one of seven townships in Chin State facing food shortages due to plagues of rats destroying crops.

The World Food Program (WFP) in Rangoon has reported that about 85 percent of the population in Chin State is in debt after borrowing money to buy food.

Similar conscription took place in the northern part of Ye Township in Mon State in southern Burma in July, when Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 343 ordered 200 youths to go for military training, according to Lawi Oung, a resident in Ye Township.

“The participants were taught how to beat people, how to handle riots and how to hold guns,” he said. “The training took one month, but the participants were only given fake bamboo guns during training.”

The families of those who refused to join had to pay 6,000 kyat [US $5.50] for exemption, according to Lawi Oung.

The villages where conscription took place are in a “black area,” which is close to a Mon rebel-controlled area, according to Thailand-based the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM).

Analysts said that the junta is training militias to prevent any uprising in the planned 2010 election, but they may also be preparing them for use as frontline troops when they attack Mon rebels.

Junta troops have conducted similar military training in several townships in Shan Sate in Northern Burma in recent months, according to the Chiang Mai-based Shan Herald Agency for News.

About 100 youths in Muse Township near the Chinese border in northern Shan State were forced to undergo military training.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Saengjuen, an editor for the Shan Herald Agency for News, said: “an estimated 1000 people have been forced into training. Many are former members of forces loyal to the drug lord Khun Sa [who died in Rangoon in 2007].

“More people have been conscripted this year for basic military training, and to be taught how to collect news, organize campaigns and prepare military operations,” he said.

Saengjuen believes such militia troops will be used to attack armed ethnic ceasefire groups in Shan State, such as those in the Wa, Kokang, and Mong La areas, if tension keeps mounting.

Meanwhile, about 500 private mercenaries from Tang Yan Township in eastern Shan State were forced to join junta troops in preparation for a possible attack on the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

Tension between junta troops and ethnic ceasefire groups has been mounting after the latter refused to transform their troops into border guard forces in Shan State in July.

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