11 July 2024

Yangon, Myanmar – Two people were killed in a crush outside a passport office in Myanmar on Monday, a rescue worker said, as thousands rush to leave the country to escape a junta military service law.

Two women aged 52 and 39 died early Monday after hundreds of people surged to get in line at the passport office in second city Mandalay, a rescue worker who arrived at the scene told AFP.

“There was a ditch near the crowd. They fell into the ditch and died from a lack of oxygen,” the rescue officer said, requesting anonymity for security reasons.

Another woman was slightly injured, the officer said, adding that all three had been selling tokens assigning numbers in the queue.

Local media also reported the deaths.

Three years after seizing power in a coup, the military is struggling to crush widespread armed opposition to its rule.

In recent weeks it has lost territory and control of lucrative trade routes to China to an alliance of ethnic minority armed groups.

Earlier this month it said it would enforce a law allowing it to call up all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve in the military for at least two years.

The law was written by a previous junta but never used, and it remains unclear how it will be enforced. No details have been given about how those called up would be expected to serve, but many young people are not keen to wait and find out.

Last week local media images showed hundreds of people queueing outside the passport office in Mandalay.

In commercial hub Yangon thousands of young men and women queued outside the Thai embassy seeking visas to get out of Myanmar last week.

Around 13 million people will be eligible to be called up, a junta spokesman said last week, though the military only has capacity to train 50,000 a year.

The junta has previously said it is taking measures to arm pro-military militias as it battles opponents across the country — both anti-coup “People’s Defence Forces” (PDFs) and more long-standing ethnic minority armed groups.

by Agence France-Presse