Villagers flee homes to avoid TNLA recruitment drive

Photo SHAN- Women and children pictured at Marnsu monastery in Lashio Township on December 10 due to clashes between TNLA and Burma Army. Photo SHAN- Women and children pictured at Marnsu monastery in Lashio Township on December 10 due to clashes between TNLA and Burma Army.

Hundreds of civilians in northern Shan State’s Kyaukme Township have reportedly fled their homes as Ta’ang rebels step up a program of forced recruitment in the area.

Sai Tun Ngan, a Kyaukme MP from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), told Shan Herald that villagers from Pang Kwan had been evacuating their homes since December 11, a day after 24 men from the village had been arrested and detained by the by Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

“People are afraid because the TNLA is conscripting new soldiers,” he said. “Many from Pang Kwan have left to stay with relatives in other villages, while about 150 have sought shelter at a temple in Kyaukme town.”

The SNLD MP added: “They are still too afraid to return home.”

Situated in Kyaukme Township in northern Shan State, Pang Kwan has a population of over 600, living in some 170 households.

Col. Tar Phong Kyaw, a TNLA spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy news agency this week that his group has launched a new policy of recruiting soldiers into its ranks.

“We have a new military recruitment policy for our party,” he said. “However, we only recruit soldiers from amongst our Ta’ang [Palaung] people. We do not recruit from the ethnic Shan villages.”

Shan Herald reported on December 1 that some 200 villagers from Mantong and Mong Maw in Kyaukme Township had fled their homes due to hostilities between the TNLA and Burmese government forces.

The TNLA is a member of the newly formed Northern Alliance, alongside the Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). The coalition conducted synchronized offensives against Burmese military positions around the Chinese border in northern Shan State on November 20, and clashes between the sides have since intensified.

Thousands of people have been displaced in the region due to the recent conflict. It is estimated that more than 4,000 are still unable to return to their villages.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)