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Myanmar's junta enforces mandatory military service amid turmoil

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Myanmar's military junta has activated a dormant mandatory military service law that forces participation of all young men and women for at least two years.

About the law: Myanmar’s military government announced on Feb. 10 that it is reviving the People’s Military Service Law for the first time since it was introduced in 2010, reported the BBC. The junta, called the State Administration Council, stated that it is set to "release necessary bylaws, procedures, announcements orders, notifications and instructions" for the law's implementation.

The compulsory conscription, which takes effect immediately, requires men aged 18-45 and women aged 18-35 to be drafted for two years and up to five years during emergencies. Those who fail to comply face imprisonment for up to five years. Exemptions are granted to religious orders and temporary deferments to civil servants and students.

Response to nationwide resistance: The military junta came to power after ousting elected Aung San Suu Kyi via a coup in 2021. The coup initially sparked nonviolent protests and civil disobedience, which evolved into organized armed resistance. Observers view the law’s activation as the military's response to further escalations. The National Unity Government, which represents the resistance, noted over 14,000 defections from the military since the coup, reported the Associated Press.

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Struggles in recruitment: On Jan. 31, Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing extended the nation's state of emergency for another six months until July 31 and vowed to “crush” all opposition to the junta's rule. The extension, the fifth since the junta took power, effectively delayed elections in the country.

The Tatmadaw, as the military is known, has been challenged by a coordinated offensive from ethnic minority insurgent groups and pro-democracy fighters since October, reported The Guardian. After suffering significant setbacks in recent months, the military has strained its capacity and is now facing internal morale issues among officers. Insiders report that the junta has since faced challenges in recruiting soldiers.

 

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