In Myanmar, rebel armies are attacking the military on various fronts. Now the regime has announced the implementation of general conscription. In the future, all men aged 18 to 35 and women aged 18 to 27 should do two years of military service. Certain specialists such as doctors should even be able to be drafted up to the age of 45 and for up to three years. In the event of a state of emergency, military service should be able to be extended to up to five years. In Myanmar, the military had already announced such a state of emergency after seizing power in February 2021 and has since extended it several times.

Till Fähnders

Political correspondent for South and Southeast Asia and Australia.

Experts see the move as a sign of “growing desperation” on the part of the military leadership. The introduction of compulsory military service is a reaction to the sharp decline in the recruitment of soldiers since the military coup, wrote Myanmar expert Ye Myo Hein on the platform Since October, three rebel armies have made significant gains in the north of the country. Many regime soldiers were killed, captured or surrendered voluntarily. Entire battalions have now laid down their weapons without a fight.

Compulsory military service was decided in 2010 by the then ruling military council. However, it was never implemented in the following years. The new law provides for prison sentences of up to five years for refusing military service. It should come into force immediately when the introduction is announced on Saturday, as the state press in Myanmar reported. “The duty to protect and defend the nation applies not only to soldiers but to all citizens,” said military regime spokesman Zaw Min Tun.

Regime continues to crack down on civilians

Observers described the resulting mass recruitment of new and young soldiers as a “risky step” for the military regime. “You can bet there will be a lot of dissent,” activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi wrote on social media. People could join the resistance or flee to neighboring countries. Mutiny and desertion could continue to increase among soldiers. This could also bring additional weapons into circulation.

The regime troops are increasingly in trouble, especially in the border areas. In the neighborhood of China, three rebel armies have captured dozens of cities and towns in recent months, including some of the most important border crossings. After heavy fighting in Rakhine state, hundreds of security forces have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in recent days. But the resistance has also reached the areas in central Myanmar where the military traditionally has its power base.

The civil war is being driven by numerous guerrilla groups that young Myanmar people founded after the suppression of democracy protests following the military coup. The regime continues to use extreme brutality against civilians. A few days ago, Amnesty International released a report that 17 civilians, including nine children, were killed during an airstrike on a church in the Sagaing region in January.