The Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) has forcibly recruited two minors in northern Shan State, their families told SHAN. The ethnic armed group, which is fighting the Restoration Council of Shan State and the Burma Army, sent a letter to Sai Yum’s family in Ner Wong village last week saying they would take the 16-year-old and17-year-old Sai Pan Ti from another family.
According to a family member who requested anonymity, two soldiers came in a car to deliver the letter in Tang Yang Township. But Sai Yum was at his work as a bricklayer, so the soldiers forced the family to call the boy back to the house and took him away. His parents and 10-year-old brother depend on the teenager’s income to survive.
According to a teacher from the village, who did not want to give his name, Sai Pan Ti is the main support for his widowed mother and younger sister after his other siblings have married and moved away from Ner Wong. ”His mother has not been able to sleep since they took him away,” the teacher told SHAN.
When asked by SHAN, SSPP spokesperson Major Sai Phone Han said he was not aware of the youths’ situation and pointed out it’s new policy forbids the recruitment of minors. ”If our troops mistakenly recruited youths under 18, we will send them back to their family,” he said.
However, the Shan community does not want the ethnic armed groups to force anyone to join, especially during the pandemic and instability caused by the 1 February coup, as this will lead to more fear and economic hardship.
The boys’ families want SSPP to immediately return their sons.