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Young People in Myanmar Refuse to Fight for Junta Military

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Young People in Myanmar Refuse to Fight for Junta Military

Myanmar’s military administration is experiencing growing opposition to its authority, and armed resistance groups have taken control of vast parts of the country.

On February 1, 2021, the military took control in a coup, imprisoning elected leaders and plunging the country into a brutal civil war that continues to this day. Thousands have been killed, and the United Nations estimates that over 2.6 million people have been displaced.

Young Burmese, many of whom have led protests and resistance against the junta, are now being persuaded they must fight for the regime.

Many feel this is the result of the military’s recent losses, with anti-government organisations banding together to beat them in critical locations. Many of them want to leave the nation instead.

According to the BBC, there were major injuries in Mandalay, where the two deaths occurred outside the passport office. One person fractured their leg after falling into a drain, and another smashed their teeth. Six others had breathing problems.

Myanmar’s conscription law was passed in 2010, but it was not enforced until the junta announced on February 10 that all men aged 18 to 35 and women aged 18 to 27 would be required to serve at least two years in the military.

Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun

Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun, the military government’s spokeswoman, said in a statement that the law made around a fifth of the country’s 56 million population eligible for duty.

The regime later stated that it did not want to include women in the conscript pool “at present,” but did not elaborate on what that meant.

The government official told BBC Burmese that call-ups would begin after the Thingyan holiday, which celebrates Burmese New Year in mid-April, with an initial batch of 5,000 recruits.

The regime’s statement has given yet another blow to Myanmar’s youth population. The coup, which followed school closures during the Covid-19 outbreak, affected many students’ schooling.

According to the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation, the junta suspended 145,000 teachers and university personnel in 2021 because they supported the resistance, and several schools in opposition-held areas were destroyed by fighting or air strikes.

Then there are individuals who have fled across borders seeking sanctuary, including young people looking for work to support their families.

In response to the conscription law, several people have stated on social media that they would become monks or marry early to avoid military service.

Myanmar's Dictator Gen Min Orders Forced Military Service As His Army Loses to Rebels

According to the junta, permanent exemptions would be granted to members of religious orders, married women, individuals with impairments, those deemed unfit for military service, and “those who are exempted by the conscription board”.

For everyone else, dodging conscription is punished by three to five years in prison and a fine.

Wealthier families are considering relocating their families abroad, with Thailand and Singapore being popular destinations, but some are even looking as far as Iceland, in the hopes that their children may gain permanent residency or citizenship there by the time they reach conscription age.

Others have instead joined the resistance forces, according to Aung Sett of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, a long-standing opponent of military administration.

Myanmar's Ethnic Minority Militia Groups Vow to Take Down "Dictatorship"

Last October, the dictatorship had its biggest major setback since the coup. A coalition of ethnic militants overran dozens of military installations along the border with India and China. It has also lost significant territory to rebels along the Bangladesh-India border.

The National Unity Government, also known as Myanmar’s government in exile, claims that resistance groups currently control more than 60% of Myanmar’s territory.

“By instituting forced conscription following a series of devastating and humiliating defeats to ethnic armed organisations, the military is publicly demonstrating just how desperate it has become,” said Jason Tower, country director for the Burma programme at the US Institute of Peace.

Mr Tower believes the move would fail due to growing hostility towards the junta.

“Many young people avoiding conscription will have no choice but to flee to adjacent nations, exacerbating regional humanitarian and refugee crises.

This might lead to further frustration in Thailand, India, China, and Bangladesh, all of which could shift away from their remaining support for the junta,” he warned.

Even if the military is able to expand troop numbers by force, this will do little to remedy low morale in the ranks. It will also take months to train the new troops, he explained.

The junta had a long history of “forced recruitment” even before the law was passed, according to Ye Myo Hein, a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars.

“So the law may only be a front for forcefully conscripting new recruits into the military. With a critical personnel crisis, there is no time to wait for the lengthy and gradual process of recruiting new soldiers, leading [officials] to use the legislation to quickly compel people into duty,” he stated. Even for those that survive, many will suffer physical and emotional trauma for the rest of their lives.

Keywords: myanmar military, myanmar coup, myanmar news, myanmar now

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The CTNNews editorial team comprises seasoned journalists and writers dedicated to delivering accurate, timely news coverage. They possess a deep understanding of current events, ensuring insightful analysis. With their expertise, the team crafts compelling stories that resonate with readers, keeping them informed on global happenings.

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