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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Myanmar junta enforces military service law after battlefield losses

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Yangon, Myanmar—Myanmar’s junta is enforcing a law allowing the military to summon all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve for at least two years, it said on Saturday, as it struggles to crush opposition to its 2021 coup.

The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the military takeover in February of that year, which ended a ten-year experiment with democracy and sparked mass protests and a crackdown on dissent.

Three years on, the junta is struggling to crush widespread armed opposition to its rule and recently suffered a series of stunning losses to an alliance of ethnic minority armed groups.

The junta “issued the notification of the effectiveness of People’s Military Service Law starting from February 10th, 2024,” the junta’s information team said in a statement.

The law was authored by a previous junta in 2010 but was never brought into force.

Saturday’s statement did not give further details but said the junta’s defence ministry would “release necessary bylaws, procedures, announcements orders, notifications and instructions.”

It did not give details on how those called up would be expected to serve.

The junta has previously said it is taking measures to arm pro-military militias as it battles opponents across the country.

A “national military service system involving all people is essential because of the situation happening in our country,” junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said in an audio message released by the information team.

Under the former law the age bracket for “skilled” men and women was 18-45 years and 18-35 years respectively, although details on “skilled” were left vague.

That law also had a stipulation that during a state of emergency, the terms of service can be extended up to five years and those ignoring summons to serve can be jailed for the same period.

The Myanmar junta announced a state of emergency when it seized power in 2021, with the army recently extending it for a further six months.

Since the coup, pro-democracy “People’s Defense Forces” have enlisted tens of thousands of young recruits and are taking the fight to the junta across swathes of the country.

In late October, an alliance of ethnic minority fighters launched a surprise offensive in northern Shan state, capturing territory and taking control of lucrative trade routes to China.

The success of the northern offensive and the military’s failure to mount a counter-attack has dented morale among low- and mid-level officers, according to several military sources contacted by AFP, all of whom requested anonymity.

More than 4,500 people have been killed in the military’s crackdown on dissent and over 26,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group. AFP


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