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Myanmar junta conscripts Muslims to fight Muslims

Peoples Defence Force sources accuse pro-junta civilian militias of terrorizing local populations
Muslims offer morning prayers to mark the Islamic festival of Eid ul-Fitr in Yangon on April 22, 2023. The Myanmar military has dispatched Muslim conscripts to fight fellow Muslims opposed to the ruling junta in the Southeast Asian nation’s west

Muslims offer morning prayers to mark the Islamic festival of Eid ul-Fitr in Yangon on April 22, 2023. The Myanmar military has dispatched Muslim conscripts to fight fellow Muslims opposed to the ruling junta in the Southeast Asian nation’s west (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 02, 2024 07:30 AM GMT
Updated: April 02, 2024 09:40 AM GMT

The Myanmar military has dispatched Muslim conscripts to fight fellow Muslims in the Southeast Asian nation’s west where fierce fighting has taken a heavy toll on the junta over the last five months.

Leaders of the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed organization (EAO) fighting the junta since it toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, shies away from being described as Muslim-based, claiming to be a secular-based militia with a large number of Buddhists within its ranks.

However, civic leaders have accused the Tatmadaw, the local name for the army, of using conscription to drive a wedge between the Islamic community.

One report and People’s Defence Force (PDF) sources, attached to the armed wing of the opposition National Unity Government (NUG), said more than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims were sheltering inside the Kyauk Ta Lone displacement camp when junta troops arrived in late February and began registering young people eligible for the draft in western Rakhine state.

They have since returned, enforced military training with Battalion 34 and have been ordered to the frontlines amid clashes with the Arakan Army around Mala Kyun, Pyaing Saeke, and Thit Poke Taung villages over the last month.

Arakan leaders had urged Muslims to relocate into liberated areas to avoid forced recruitment but “after we fled, over 100 men left at the camp were detained and tortured,” said one Muslim.

Further reports of torture are also filtering in from across the Mae Sot-Myawaddy frontier where sources aligned with the PDF are blaming the Pyu Saw Htee, a network of pro-military villagers, for terrorizing local populations.

They include a CNN report investigating the deaths of Phoe Tay, 21, and Thar Htaung, 20 — members of a local armed resistance group in northwest Myanmar — and the use of terror tactics, including burnings and decapitations.

“It’s painful,” one PDF source said. “People fear not only the military but also civilian terrorists, the Pyu Saw Htee, which are civilian militias formed by the military.

“These Pyu Saw Htee militias are armed by the military, and they kill PDF supporters and PDF soldiers, they punish and inform the military,” she said. “They also steal things from people, kidnap and molest young women.”

Unconfirmed reports include the abduction of 12 civilians including one “for banging pots” in Kyi Myin Daing. Another report, which was confirmed by the PDF source, said the junta had tried to forcibly recruit a male named Amanullah near Yangon on March 29.

“He was a Muslim and he can’t eat pork. They forced him to eat pork during training and he refused. So, they beat him to death,” she told UCA News.

Conscription is prompting many youths to join EAOs or flee to Thailand. The PDF sources said people under 35 years of age were continuing to cross into Mae Sot.

“One elderly woman will cross today. She had three sons. One was killed during the protests after the coup in 2021. Another was killed fighting with the Arakan Army, so she has one young son left and they are coming and we will help them,” she said.

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1 Comments on this Story
JOHN MASCARENHAS
THE MYANMAR GOVT/ARMY IS A CRUEL CORRUPT RUTHLESS ONE THAT KILLS ITS OWN PEOPLE IN ORDER TO CONTROL THE WEALTH OF MYANMAR. IT IS SHAMEFUL THAT THE CHINESE MAKE MONIES WITH SUPPLY OF WEAPONS TO THE MYANMAR ARMY. INDIAN GOVT TOO HAS GOOD RELATIONS WITH THE CRIMINAL GOVT/ARMY OF MYANMAR. A PLANELOAD OF MYANMAR ARMY OFFICERS WERE LOCATED IN NORTH-EAST INDIA SOME MONTHS BACK. HOW DID A FOREIGN PLANE WITH ARMY OFFICERS LAND IN INDIA, AND THE INDIAN GOVT WAS SILENT ABOUT IT???Y IS THE INDIAN GOVT TRYING TO CONTROL ITS OPPONENTS THAT OPERATE ALONG THE INDIAN-MYANMAR BORDER, WITH MYANMAR HELP?
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