Over one hundred young men have fled their homes in Mong Kung Township because they are scared that they will be conscripted by the Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA).
Youths from seven wards in the downtown area and village tracts of Mong Kung Township in Loilem District, Southern Shan State have left their homes and gone to Laihka, Taunggyi, Panlon and Thailand, according to locals.
Sai Aik Na a resident of Mong Kung said: “This happened in seven city area wards and the village tracts of Ho-Nar, Want-Phwe, and Toan-Law. The list of names has about 50 people from each village-tract. The youths whose names were on the list went to see the commander of RCSS/SSA Area 9 and asked to be excused, but he refused. He said that all the youths whose names are on the list have to be recruited as soldiers, so we [the residents] can do nothing at all. Some rich people pay others to replace them on the list.”
A local abbot who wished to remain anonymous said: “We all have a duty to serve the national cause. We have to persuade them to do it of their own free will. When we use force we will have their bodies, but we will not have their hearts [minds] or their families’ support at all. So we will never reach our goal [of self-determination]. I want everything to be done with love.”
Sai Long, who works for a community based organistion (CBO) and is the chairman of the supporting committee for the Mong Kung Administration Office, led a delegation of residents that had discussions with Brigadier General Pong Khe, the leader of the RCSS/SSA Peace Team, on 15 February.
One of the delegates said: “In the meeting Brigadier General Pong Khe said that recruitment policy is not the responsibility of their upper level [the RCSS/SSA Central Committee] and that they do not have that policy [conscription] anymore. He thinks there might have been a misunderstanding, they will look into it and check.”
Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk leader of RCSS previously said to S.H.A.N.: “We have a policy that all 18 year old youths will have military training. We give military training so that they can work in the military when we need them. After training they are allowed to go back home and help their parents, if they wish to work in the military that is also possible. Though we can persuade and organize civilians to work for the RCSS/SSA we will not forcibly recruit them. If someone [an SSA soldier] is recruiting without having been ordered to and is disobeying orders he is guilty and we will have to punish him.”
Since attending the government’s Union Day celebrations in Naypyidaw and then signing an agreement promising that the RCSS/SSA will continue working for peace Lt. Gen Yawd Serk has been touring Shan State and meeting up with Shan People.
According to unconfirmed news reports he is touring in Taunggyi District and later he will tour Southern Shan State to meet with local Shan residents.