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Myanmar junta recruiting former resistance fighters to bolster numbers

Resistance fighters who surrendered to the junta in southwestern Myanmar are now being enlisted by the regime’s military, anti-junta militia members told Radio Free Asia.

Junta soldiers are bribing revolutionary groups with money and food, said one official from the Pathein Urban Guerrilla Group on Wednesday.

In the last two weeks the pressure has grown to bolster troop numbers by recruiting resistance fighters from Kyonpyaw, Yegyi and Pathein townships in Ayeyarwady region, he said. Both regime soldiers and former resistance group leaders who have surrendered are reported to be stepping up their recruitment tactics. 

“Especially [those in] various forms of leadership among the surrenderers. They are called to meet up and recruit others to serve in the [junta-led] militia,” the official said, asking to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. “The steps of organizing each other and asking people to organize to serve in the militia have escalated in the past two weeks.”

This month, the junta also recalled retired military and police personnel from Thabaung township, he added.

More than 100 people have surrendered to the junta in Ayeyarwady region in the past two years. Members of People’s Defense Forces surrendered by contacting junta forces to give up their positions. 

Ayeywarwady residents also accused junta troops of recruiting teen soldiers and pressuring locals to fulfill quotas in October.

Pro-military militia members, including those in the Swan Ar Shin militia, have been undergoing military training since September, said a Pathein resident close to the junta army. The training is being provided at several military bases in Ayeyarwady division, including the Kyonpyaw-based Infantry Battalion 36, according to the Pathein Urban Guerrilla Group.

In October, a 20-year-old man from Kyonpyaw died during an interrogation by members of Battalion 36 after being accused of communicating with People’s Defense Forces in Mandalay region.

RFA has not been able to independently verify the claims made by anti-junta militias. Calls by RFA to Ayeyarwady division’s junta spokesperson Aung Thein Win seeking comment went unanswered.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.