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According to villagers in Shan State’s Namhsan township, The Ta’ang (Palaung) National Liberation Army (TNLA) are forcefully recruiting people into their ranks and are executing those who refuse.
Namhsan township lies in the Palaung Self-Administered Zone in northern Shan State and is under the control of the TNLA. Ethnic Lisu people said they fled their villages to escape the recruitment.
One Lisu villager said TNLA soldiers were demanding one recruit from each household.
“We were forced to come here as the TNLA have been on a recruitment drive, demanding one compulsory recruit from each household,” the villager said.
“U Maung Sein, our village leader, had gone to plead with them explaining that we, the Lisu, are just a minority and do not have the courage for that.”
When the village leader went to reason with the soldiers, he was allegedly killed.
“For saying that, they took U Maung Sein and executed him. They also spread the word that there will be more executions so we decided to come here – our whole village,” said the Lisu villager.
Over 50 families who fled from the TNLA are now sheltering in villages in neighbouring Lashio district. But they have left their jobs and livelihoods and they are not receiving aid.
“We came here to escape the recruitment drive by the Palaung rebels,” said another villager with a young son. “There are over 50 families of us. No one is providing us homes or aid to settle here.”
Similar recruitment drives were reported in Kutkai township in northeastern Shan State, where the TNLA and other ethnic militia groups are active.
The TNLA, armed wing of the Palaung State Liberation Front, was formed in 2005 and is active in northern Shan state’s Mongtong, Kutkai, Namhkam and Namhsan townships.
In February the TNLA reported continued clashes with the Burmese army, and said they had seen 16 offensives on TNLA positions this year.
Forced conscription is a common strategy in many ethnic militias to gain new recruits when fighting breaks out.