The government of 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. The move, which was announced on Saturday, will require all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve at least two years under military command.
No further details have been released, but in a statement, the junta said its defense ministry would “release necessary bylaws, procedures, announcements orders, notifications and instructions.” The military has faced a series of humiliating defeats in recent months. At the end of last year, three ethnic insurgent armies in Shan State – supported by other armed groups that oppose the government – captured border crossings and roads carrying most of the overland trade with China.
The military-installed president of Myanmar, Myint Swe – a former general – has previously warned the country is in danger of breaking apart if the government could not bring fighting under control. A law allowing conscription was introduced in Myanmar in 2010 but has not been enforced until now. Under the legislation, the 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. Disorders and fighting have affected the country ever since, with more than one million people being displaced and thousands killed. 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.