Conscription law threatens future prospects of Burmese youth

March 18, 2024

HURFOM: As the conflict intensifies across Burma, it has become abundantly clear that the military junta is losing the war it started. In an effort to bolster their military losses, they have turned to even more drastic measures. On February 10th, 2024, the military council enacted compulsory conscription law.

According to the conscription bill, men who are in the 18-35 age range and women who are in the 18-27 age range can be selected for military service.

The military junta said conscription law would begin after the Songkran holidays but soldiers have already started arresting people on dubious charges and forcing them to join the military.

Conscription and the actions of soldiers has sparked fear amongst parents and worry for young people falling in the targeted age range.

Not only young men and women but also their parents are worried about the bill. Fear spreads among them. Parents are thinking of sending their sons and daughters abroad to avoid forced military service and some don’t know what to do,” said a mother.

Parents in Mon State who are working abroad have withdrawn their children from school and have brought them via illegal routes to live with them or work there.

The parents can’t wait for the end of the exam period. They fear that their children will have to join the military, so they have withdrawn them from school. Now, big schools have lost about 30 to 50 students and small schools lost about 10 to 20 students,” said a social worker from Mudon Township who helps local matriculated students.

Normally, matriculated students are in the 16-17 age range and would not be eligible for military service. But schools in Burma were closed for nearly two years due to COVID-19 outbreak. The matriculated students have already turned 18 years old which is the age range for military service according to the junta’s conscription law. 

There is a young boy who used to participate in a protest against the military coup with us. He hasn’t turned 18 yet. But his parents have forced him to stop school and go to Korea,” said a woman from Long Lone Township.

The conscription law has the biggest impact on the young community, making them worried and fearful. To avoid compulsory military service, young men are fleeing abroad via illegal routes or finding shelter in liberated areas controlled by the ethnic armed organizations.

“(Later), the junta won’t allow young men to go abroad if they have not finished military service. So, we’ll go to Thailand or Malaysia via illegal routes,” said a young Mon man.

On March 13th, 2024, Thai authorities arrested 22 Burmese workers at Kanchanaburi District near the Thai – Burma Border as they illegally entered Thailand. In February, 2024 when the compulsory conscription law was enacted, 509 Burmese workers were arrested because of illegal entry to Thailand, according to data collected by Dawei Watch News Agency.

My grandson is just 17 years old and he’s about to take the matriculation exam. But when the conscription law was announced, his parents were worried and made him dropout of school. Now, he’s in Thailand and working there,” said an old woman from Thanbyuzayat Township.

The Mon State Revolution Force (MSRF) and other revolutionary forces are welcoming young people who do not want to be conscripted into military service under the dictatorship. On February 13th, the MSRF released a statement announcing they want to recruit new members.  Hundreds of young people contacted them and made an inquiry, according to the MSRF. 

The Karen National Union (Mu Ta Yaw District) also released a statement on March 1st, 2024, urging people to oppose the junta’s conscription law and to take shelter in villages under their control if joining to military service is inevitable.

If there is no option, I’ll join our Mon armed organization,” said one Mon youth.


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