Rathidaung: The Burmese army has been collecting funds from locals for the recently formed people’s militias in villages throughout Rathidaung Township, 20 miles north of Sittwe, said a village who was selected to join the militia.
“The army authority has collected 3,000 kyats from individual members of the people’s militia. At the same time, the authority has collected 3,000 or 4,000 kyats from each household in the whole township for formation of the people’s militias,” he said.
The funds are for purchasing equipment for the militias, including uniforms, hats, and badges, as well as for paying for the travel of army officials who came to the villages to form the militia.
“In our village, Ku Daung, the army authority formed the people’s militia with 30 villagers and all members were forced by the authority to pay 3,000 kyats each for the militia fund,” he added.
All households from several villages – Ku Daung, Oo Ga, Shwe Long Din, Kan Byin, Zee Gin, and Nyung Bin Lay – in southern Rathidaung Township had to pay 3,000 kyat for each poor family and 4,000 kyats for each rich family for the militia fund.
The Burmese military authority has been forming many government-backed organizations like the people’s militia and village-level fire brigades in Arakan, in order to support the 2010 election.
“Arakanese people believe the formation of the militia in Arakan State is to support the 2010 election. People will be obligated by their membership in the militia to support the pro-government party in the 2010 election,” he said.
Most people in the township do not wish to join the militia as it would disrupt their livelihoods. However, they are unable to refuse to join after army officials pressure them.
The authority is not only forming the militias in the villages of Rathidaung but also in other townships in Arakan, forming militias with 30 people from each village. However, there are no apparent plans to arm these militias.
A teacher from Rathidaung said, “It was formed only for the 2010 election in order to ensure victory for the military-backed political party. The army authority will use the people’s militia as a tool in the election. After the election, the organization will disappear from public sight.”
The military authority in Arakan State is now preparing for the 2010 election by forming many government-backed organizations. On 8 September, the Arakan State Veteran Organization was re-formed in a conference that was held in Ann Town, where the organizations selected some prominent veteran members to contest the 2010 election.