KIA forced re­cruit­ment drive high­lights bur­den placed on vil­lagers

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Sai Wan­sai

– KIA forced re­cruit­ment drive high­lights bur­den placed on vil­lagers

On Oc­to­ber 4, the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army (KIA), in a troops re­cruit­ment drive which seems to be part of the scheme for ter­ri­to­rial and pop­u­la­tion con­trol, ab­ducted about 60 vil­lagers from Waing­maw Town­ship in My­itky­ina district, Kachin State. Ac­cord­ing to the Myan­mar Times, the hostages also in­cluded banana farm­ers and vil­lagers from Sainglaw, Hong­taung and Kaungkha vil­lages, lo­cated in Sadone Sub-town­ship of Waing­maw town­ship. The vil­lage heads con­tacted the Kachin State po­lice forces and the Peace Talks Cre­ation Group (PCG) is said to be me­di­at­ing with KIA for the re­lease of the hostages. Among the 60 hostages, eight vil­lagers were re­leased by KIA on Oc­to­ber 7, and 52 are still be­ing held. At present, the eight re­leased are be­ing in­ter­ro­gated at the Tat­madaw base of Sadone, said Po­lice Cap­tain Myo Thura Naung of Kachin State Po­lice Force. Re­gard­ing civil­ians and farm­ers still de­tained, he con­tin­ued.

“We, the po­lice force, could not ne­go­ti­ate with KIA for the re­lease of the vil­lagers. It should be done by the state gov­ern­ment. How­ever, we have re­ported it to the au­thor­i­ties as an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ci­dent,” he said. For the re­main­ing hostages, their where­abouts re­main un­known as of Oc­to­ber 8, Po­lice Lieu­tenant Myo Si Thu from Sadone Po­lice Sta­tion said. Of the eight re­leased vil­lagers on Oc­to­ber 7, six are said to be Shan, also known as Red Shan, Shanni or Tai-Leng, and the other two are Chi­nese who are the own­ers of the banana plan­ta­tion in the area. The re­lease of the six Shan was due to the in­ter­ven­tion of a Bud­dhist monk with the help of the PCG's U La­maing Gun Ja. The six were help­ing the monk at a re­li­gious cer­e­mony in the monastery, and ac­cord­ing to the monk, the KIA might also like to avoid re­li­gious and racial con­flict.

The Kachin are mostly Chris­tian, whereas the Shan are Bud­dhist. Af­ter the re­lease of the six Shan by the KIA, Sai San Wai, chair­man of the Shan af­fairs group told Ra­dio Free Asia that even though his main task was to work for the re­lease of the Shan, he was equally con­cerned for the re­main­ing ab­ductees. He strongly stressed: “We Shan should not be bul­lied by the might of arms. As a Shan af­fairs group, although we are con­cerned with the re­lease of the Shan, we want all hostages to be re­leased. If one is ab­ducted the liveli­hood of the fam­ily be­comes dif­fi­cult. We do not want th­ese ab­duc­tions or pro­tec­tion money (tax­a­tion) asked of us. If we want to live to­gether, th­ese kinds of things should not be done.” The Shan in Kachin State and the KIA have an un­easy re­la­tion­ship, as the Shan are re­luc­tant and un­will­ing to serve in the KIA and want to be left alone. Shan sources in Kachin State said that hun­dreds of their peo­ple are still forcibly re­cruited into the KIA ranks. Like­wise, on May 22 of this year, about 2,000 eth­nic Lisu protested against KIA for forcibly re­cruit­ing other

Lisu and try­ing to ex­tort money from the mi­nor­ity group. Re­gard­ing the fate of the re­main­ing ab­ductees, which are said to in­clude Ba­mar, Arakan and Kachin among oth­ers, the op­por­tu­nity to be re­leased might be quite un­likely, if what U La­maing Gun Ja said is to be taken into ac­count. He told the me­dia: “When the KIA makes re­cruit­ment it is not like just tak­ing the ab­ductees in with­out ques­tions. Phys­i­cal and health checks, in­clud­ing whether the re­cruits are an adult and not un­der age are in­ves­ti­gated. If they are not ac­cord­ing to the norms they are re­leased and even if one is fit to serve, he will be re­leased if he is the only son and would cause the fam­ily a big hard­ship in striv­ing for a liveli­hood.”

It is clear that the gov­ern­ment is pow­er­less to stop such re­cruit­ment drives, par­tic­u­larly as the KIA is not a sig­na­tory of any cease­fire agree­ment, in­clud­ing the Na­tion­wide Cease­fire Agree­ment (NCA). This re­cruit­ment and tax­a­tion levied on the pop­u­la­tion, which the peo­ple have to com­ply with are dis­as­trous, but no one is in a po­si­tion to stop it. Per­haps it is time for all stake­hold­ers to in­vest more po­lit­i­cal will and en­ergy to reach a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment so that the peo­ple's heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity of hav­ing to foot the bill for this decades-long armed con­flict could be taken away. Oth­er­wise, we will not be able to end this vi­cious cir­cle of vi­o­lence and ha­tred.

KIA fighter in Kachin State. Photo: Mizzima

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