The government in Myanmar has announced compulsory military service for all young men and women as the country continues to face turmoil. In recent months, the country has been defeated in a series of battles with ethnic militias and anti-coup fighters. As a result, all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 will be required to serve at least two years under military command.
The move was announced on Saturday, with the junta stating that necessary bylaws, procedures, announcements orders, notifications and instructions would be released. However, no further details have been released about how this will be implemented.
The military has faced a series of humiliating defeats in recent months, including the capture of border crossings and roads carrying most of the overland trade with China by three ethnic insurgent armies in Shan State – supported by other armed groups that oppose the government. The military-installed president of Myanmar, Myint Swe – a former general – has previously warned that if fighting cannot be brought under control, the country is in danger of breaking apart.
A law allowing conscription was introduced in Myanmar in 2010 but has not been enforced until now. Under this legislation, terms of service can be extended up to a period of five years during a state of emergency. Those ignoring summons to serve can instead be jailed for the same period. A state of emergency was announced by the country’s junta in 2021 and was recently extended for a further six months.
Myanmar had endured almost 50 years of rule under oppressive military regimes before the move towards democracy in 2011. On 1 February 2021, the military announced it had taken control of the country, leading to disorders and fighting ever since. More than one million people have been displaced and thousands killed as a result. The performance of the army in its recent battles with ethnic armed groups – some of which have ended in defeats and retreats – has sparked criticisms and doubts among its supporters