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Villagers in rural areas around Lashio in northern Shan State say they are living in fear of a local militia group that has been terrorising the local population.
Residents from the Mongpai village-tract have claimed that members of the People’s Militia group, known locally as the “Mangpang Militia”, have threatened to murder local residents and forced them to sign an agreement giving their consent to a gold mining operation, according to Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) local party executive Sai Hla Htwe.
The SNLD, the strongest ethnic Shan-based party in the state, and which has long held close ties to Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, says it is currently facilitating negotiations between the militia and the villagers.
“We have informed other Shan MPs about this situation following complaints from the local villagers,” said Sai Hla Htwe. “Several locals claim that a militia official named Capt. Tun Sein on 29 January summoned seven residents from the village of Hkonsong, and, when they got there, he ordered them to line up and threatened to shoot them dead without explaining any reasons.”
The SNLD executive added: “Moreover, a business group called Kyauksein Arman Company has been running a gold mining operation in the Mongpai village-tract, to which many local residents had voiced objections.
“On 23 January, a militia captain named Sai Nyunt summoned them to Hopai village and forced them to sign papers, giving their consent to the mining company. He threatened to evict them from their homes if they refused.”
He said the militia has also been meddling with local administrative affairs, including sacking at least two local officials.
The 500-strong Mangpang Militia is known to be active in Lashio District, as well as in the towns of Mongyaw, Nambap, Nawnglai and Tangyang. It had previously stirred controversy when accused of forcing local villagers to pay a ‘tax’ of more than 1million kyat (US$735) per household.
The SNLD said that its upper house MP Sai Wun Hlaing Kham and fellow Shan MPs have reached out to the militia to mediate a meeting with the villagers, but without success to date.
People’s Militias are prevalent throughout villages and small towns in Shan State, operating outside the peace process and invariably independent of ethnic armed groups. Some have close links to the Burmese military and are often regarded as paramilitary forces.