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Myanmar Military Service Law Imposed Amid Backlash and Exodus

Myanmar Military Service Law

Myanmar’s military junta will enforce a compulsory Myanmar military service law from mid-April, but critics say the move could have a negative impact on the economy and the military itself.

The military junta, which seized power in a mutiny three years ago, says it aims to forcibly recruit about 60,000 young men and women each year.

The military says the Myanmar Military Service Law is important because of conflicts with rebel groups across the country. Analysts say the military government is facing its biggest challenge on the battlefield as it desperately recruits new soldiers.

The Selective Service Act was passed in 2010 but had not been activated until last week.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said in audio clips released Wednesday that the 2019 census showed at least 13 million men and women eligible for military service. He said that although the government hopes to recruit 60,000 people every year, “due to expenditure constraints,” “we cannot recruit more than 50,000

people every year.” However, a written statement issued by the military government said that it plans to recruit 5,000 new recruits for training every month this year, and 9 women He started joining the army in March.

The statement also emphasized that contacting alternative armed groups to evade the military service law is a violation and “subjects individuals to be prosecuted under the current legal framework.”

Zaw Min Tun said that initiating military service measures is to let young people “understand the responsibility of national defense.”

He said, “In February On the 14th, a regional organization will be established to start the recruitment process.” The first batch of recruitment will be held after the traditional Songkran New Year celebrations in mid-April.

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An act of desperation?

“The Myanmar military currently has less than 100,000 troops,” Khun Bedu, chairman of the Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF), said by phone on Friday. “The morale of the military is extremely low, and many soldiers no longer want to serve. This is why the junta needs to force young people to join.”

The Karenni National Defense Force, one of Myanmar’s powerful ethnic armed resistance groups, is coordinating with the Government of National Unity, which considers itself a shadow government.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the mutiny.

Miemie Winn Byrd, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and expert on Myanmar-U.S. military relations, told the media last week, “This is an act of desperation, and they’re doing it because of a lack of soldiers.”

She said, “They just don’t have enough manpower.” “This is the current problem, but this has been exacerbated since the armed resistance to the military began in 2021. There has been an unprecedented wave of defections recently, and the number of military deaths and casualties is much higher than that of the resistance. Bird said, “

In addition, there are a large number of combat unit-level defections, and they have not achieved their recruitment goals since 2021 because they are very unpopular. Our data says that more than 90% of Myanmar people are opposed to the military.”

The junta’s lack of transparency makes it difficult to know the exact number of government troops. Based on the number of casualties, desertions, and surrenders since the mutiny, the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington estimates that the effective size of the Myanmar army is around 150,000, with less than half of the frontline troops.

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Fleeing Recruitment

Meanwhile, the media reported on Monday that two women were trampled to death outside a passport office in Mandalay. Thousands of people poured in, seeking to escape the military government’s enforcement of the military service law, leading to a stampede.

An on-site rescue worker told the media that the incident occurred at 2:30 in the morning, and people were queuing up for passports.

Requesting anonymity, he said, “There was a hole nearby, and someone fell in and died due to lack of air.” “Some people were injured and were sent to the hospital.”

A French news agency reported on Friday that more than 1,000 people were outside the Thai Embassy in Yangon. Queuing up, seeking to escape Myanmar and avoid military service.

A 27-year-old anonymous man in Yangon said on the phone, “The law is unacceptable.” “There are due procedures for conscription,” “but we may be arrested on the streets and forced to join the army this time.”

He answered if the conscription cannot be implemented When asked about what to do, he said, “We have no choice but to leave. This is very unsatisfactory.” He said some people would go to the liberated areas, while others planned to work abroad and send money to those participating in the resistance.

Consequences of the Draft

“You’re going to see an exodus of young people, especially those who have the money to leave,” Byrd said. “So you have a brain drain. A lot of businesses and other organizations are going to be short of qualified workers.”

Byrd, It is also said that the military may use some of the new recruits to mine and prospect, making the military even more unpopular.

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The National Unity Government said on Tuesday that the recently enacted military service law was illegal and therefore exempted the public from enforcing it.

Kyaw Zaw, spokesman for the Presidential Office of the Government of National Unity, said last week, “Because the military government seized power through illegal force, any regulations they establish are also illegal. Therefore, their orders do not need to be implemented.” “The public can therefore resist in different ways. We have used resistance methods such as silent strikes in the past. The Government of National Unity and allied revolutionary organizations are ready to support, protect, and meet the needs of young people who are resisting the actions of the military regime.”

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