Junta-allied Lisu militia leader killed in battle with Kachin forces

Former Lisu political party leader Shwe Min was reportedly shot in the head when the Kachin Independence Army attacked his militia’s camp in Waingmaw Township

Ethnic Lisu militia leader Shwe Min, loyal to the Myanmar army, was killed in a clash with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Thursday morning in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township, according to military sources.

The 55-year-old’s death was reported by pro-junta news outlets that said he was killed in battle at the In Long Hka bridge in Aung Myay Thit village. 

In a photo obtained by Myanmar Now, Shwe Min, wearing army fatigues, appeared to be deceased, and was seen bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head. 

KIA spokesperson Col Naw Bu told Myanmar Now that his organisation was still trying to confirm the news of the militia leader’s death from sources on the ground.

The KIA launched a series of coordinated attacks on military posts around Kachin State on Thursday as part of a major offensive against the regime, also targeting the Lisu militia camp in Waingmaw where Shwe Min was present. As of Friday morning, the fighting was ongoing. 

On January 2, 2023, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing honoured Shwe Min with the Thiri Pyanchi medal presented annually for individuals being recognised for “outstanding performance.” 

Also known by the Lisu name Siphar Larlu, Shwe Min was formerly the chairperson of the Lisu National Development Party (LNDP), known locally as the Crossbow Party, a nod to its logo. The party won two seats each in the Lower House and the Shan State parliament in Myanmar’s 2015 election, as well as an ethnic affairs minister post and has been known for its close relationship to the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

In a photo posted on his personal Facebook page in 2016, Shwe Min (centre) stands between current USDP chair and former police chief Khin Yi (right) and former USDP cabinet minister Ohn Myint (left) (Shwe Minn / Facebook)

There has long been tension between the Lisu and Kachin Jinghpaw communities, and in his capacity as LNDP chair, Shwe Min repeatedly accused the KIA of killing Lisu civilians.

While remaining an LNDP patron, Shwe Min headed the military-allied Lisu armed group named after him: the Shwe Min People’s Militia but officially stepped down from the LNDP in 2021.

Shwe Min is pictured in front of the LNDP logo in a photo posted to his personal Facebook page in July 2021 while attending an online summit of the Chinese Communist Party (Shwe Minn / Facebook)

The Kachin News Group reported last November that his militia, which, at that time, had for two years been operating as the Wuyang People’s Militia around the village by the same name, had started recruiting new members in the same township where he was later killed.

“We will commence our recruitment efforts in Waingmaw, focussing specifically on the Lisu community,” he told the ethnic Kachin media outlet. 

The recruitment, Shwe Min said, would then expand to “other areas… where Lisu communities are prevalent,” naming Myitkyina, Putao, Kawnglanghpu, Chipwe and Tsawlaw, and noting that people of all ages would be called on to support his army. 

Local sources expressed concern that youth would be forced to join the militia, and that the recruitment efforts would be carried out alongside the junta.

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