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Village headman fears reprisal from government militia over forced recruitment

A village headman from Htee Wah Plaw village, in Eastern Nabu Township in Karen state has gone into hiding over fears for his safety after he denied an order from the government’s Border Guard Force (BGF) militia to supply recruits.

According to a villager, BGF Battalion 1017, demanded new recruits from Htee Wah Plaw, Htee Law Thay, Tan Pa Yar, Taw Mo Koh villages to replace a whole series of desertions that has left the battalion in a crisis.

A villager from Htee Wah Plaw (who requested anonymity for security concerns) told Karen News.

“The village tract leader received orders to find new recruits to replace those who had deserted from the BGF. The villager leader could not find anyone who wanted to join the militia. BGF soldiers came to arrest the village head and to force him to join the militia. The village head had enough and is now in hiding.”

A villagee explained to Karen News that soldiers, from BGF Battalion 1017 under the command of Major Saw Di Di, deserted in large numbers leaving only 120 militia out of 350. The BGF Battalion has since been on a recruitment drive to replaced the deserters. The villager said.

“We cannot find any new soldiers for them, so the BGF have extended their deadline to May 1. No one here wants to be a soldier for the BGF.”

BGF deserters said that as many as were 15 villagers from each village were ordered to attend BGF training and were forced to enlist in the militia – recruits were promised a monthly salary of 35,000kyat (about US$43).

In the Nabu Township BGF Battalions 1017, 1018, 1019 and 1020 operate under the command of Colonel Saw Chit Thu.

Karen News contacted BGF Battalion 1018 Commander, Colonel Maung Win, to get his response to the villagers claims about the forced recruitment, but the spokesperson declined to comment on the isse and would only confirm that there would be a military training held at Weigali village in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State.

According to villagers in the Nabu area, BGF battalions operating in the region are forcibly recruiting large numbers of villagers into the government-controlled militia.

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