11 July 2024

Yangon, Myanmar – A first batch of 5,000 conscripts called up by Myanmar‘s junta will begin duty at the end of this month, military sources told AFP on Monday, as the generals struggle to crush opposition to their coup.

The junta enforced a conscription law in February, three years after it seized power and sparked a widespread armed uprising that has spread across swathes of the Southeast Asian country.

The law allows the military to summon all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve in the armed forces for at least two years.

“The first batch of recruits, who started in early April, will conclude training at the end of this month,” one military source said.

The source said that upon graduation the 5,000 conscripts would be posted to “different military commands around the country to serve their duty”, without giving details on how they would serve. 

He requested anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media. 

Another military source who also requested anonymity said individual military commands would decide how to employ the recruits they received.

“It will be up to the commands they arrive at after their training,” he said.

Myanmar has 14 regional military commands across the country, from the Himalayan foothills in the north to the sprawling Ayeyarwady delta region bordering the Indian Ocean. 

At least 10 of them are currently engaged in fighting established ethnic minority armed groups or newer “People’s Defence Forces” that have sprung up to resist the junta.

– ‘Challenges’ –

The military service law was authored by a previous junta in 2010 but was never brought into force.

The terms of service can be extended up to five years during a state of emergency — which the junta declared when it seized power. 

Those ignoring a summons to serve can be jailed for the same period. 

Thousands of young men and women have been trying to leave the country since the law was enforced.

Conscripts from the third batch of 5,000 recruits have already begun arriving at training centres, the first source said.

A junta spokesman previously told AFP the military has the capacity to train 50,000 a year although about 13 million people will be eligible to be called up.

Last month, state media quoted the junta’s defence minister as saying the military had faced “challenges” in filling quotas.

Local media have reported cases of young men being pulled off the streets in Yangon and other cities and taken away to undergo military training.

The junta has denied the reports.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military coup in February 2021 toppled the government of Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Since then, more than 5,200 people have been killed in the military crackdown on dissent, and more than 26,000 others arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

Agence France-Presse//Photo : A military parade in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, last March. Myo Kyaw Soe / Xinhua News Agency