HomeTop StoriesHow the prospect of conscription is causing a mass exodus in Myanmar

How the prospect of conscription is causing a mass exodus in Myanmar

Nineteen-year-old Doe Doe has had to make a series of difficult decisions in his young life.

When Myanmar’s military took power in 2021, he decided to drop out of high school, feeling he could not continue his education in a system controlled by the junta. He was 16 years old at the time and about to graduate from college.

After the military recently announced that they would enforce a previously inactive conscription law, Doe Doe decided to join the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) in the central city of Mandalay, which is fighting junta forces in many parts of the country.

“I didn’t tell my parents about it,” he said on the phone. “Now I’m taking part in combat training here – it’s time for us to finally defend ourselves.”

Even as he speaks, you can hear fighter jets dropping bombs. Cries can be heard over the telephone.

The army in Myanmar has been fighting mercilessly against its own people since the overthrow of former leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Nearly 600 PDF groups have sprung up across the country since the coup, and the conflict has created a massive humanitarian crisis in the Southeast Asian country.

In recent months, the army has suffered heavy losses in many parts of the country at the hands of armed militias.

Late last year, particularly heavy fighting took place in northern Shan State, on the border with China, a region known for its drug trafficking.

See also  Detroit gets $2 million in tax revenue from marijuana; $87 million will go to 269 communities in Michigan

Within a few days, the Brother Alliance – a guerrilla group made up of three ethnic groups and some allied factions – gained control of key trade routes to China, as well as more than 180 bases and outposts.

With the military considered weakened and in urgent need of young volunteers, the regime announced it would enforce the conscription law requiring 18 to 45-year-old men and 18 to 35-year-old women to serve in the armed forces for two years. Specialized professions, including doctors and engineers, must serve three years.

In addition, military service can be extended by five years under the law if a national emergency is declared.

According to the military, in the country of about 55 million people, about 14 million people are legally eligible for military service, 6.3 million men and 7.7 million women.

Initially, around 5,000 people will be called up every month.

Planned compulsory recruitment, due to begin in April, has caused a mass exodus, with many people fearing they will soon be drafted from their homes into military service to fight for the junta – against their fellow citizens.

Kyaw Kyaw, a 27-year-old member of the LGBT community, worked as a private teacher at a private boarding school in Myitkyina, the capital of Myanmar’s northern Kachin state, after the coup.

A former government bank employee, he joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) strike and refused to work for the military. As a result, his passport was suspended and he was not allowed to leave the country.

See also  India begins replacing military personnel with civilians in response to Maldives demand

Despite the threat of arrest, Kyaw Kyaw remained in Myitkyina and continued to teach.

“But I had to keep my mouth shut because I am a CDMer,” he told dpa. To avoid being drafted into the army, Kyaw Kyaw has now fled to the Myanmar-Thailand border area controlled by the powerful Karen National Union (KNU), from where he hopes to cross the border.

The KNU is the oldest armed group in the multi-ethnic state of Myanmar. The country has been fighting for freedom for more than seventy years and has provided protection to many internally displaced persons and PDF fighters since the coup.

Kyaw Kyaw isn’t sure what the future holds for him. “I need to restart my life in Mae Sot,” he said, referring to the Thai town near the border where a large number of people from Myanmar have fled since the coup.

Like so many others, he is ignoring warnings from Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin that Myanmar nationals who enter Thailand illegally will face legal action – no wonder, given the alternative that awaits them at home.

“Signs of desperation, such as the imposition of conscription, are not an indication that the junta and its forces pose a lesser threat to the people of Myanmar,” warned the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews.

See also  Minneapolis' main post office has been renamed in honor of the late Rep. Martin Sabo

Many are now exposed to even greater dangers. According to the UN, there are reports that the military has begun kidnapping young people and forcing them to work as porters – or even using them as human shields.

“We are constantly afraid. We don’t dare go out on the streets at night,” says a 35-year-old graphic designer from Yangon.

Thousands of young people have been queuing outside the Thai embassy in the city in recent days to obtain a visa.

“We only have one son and he should be with us forever, but we have to let him go. I don’t see him joining the junta’s forces,” said Daw Nyein, a 50-year-old mother in line at the embassy. dpa.

Young people are also trying to flee to Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos to avoid conscription, although Thailand remains the main destination as many Burmese have already fled there after the coup.

Passport offices in major cities are being overwhelmed by the influx, with two women killed in a pre-dawn stampede at the Mandalay office on February 19.

Meanwhile, Doe Doe continues to hold on to the hope that one day he will be able to graduate from high school. “I am convinced that in the end we will win. Everyone here believes that,” he said. “The junta cannot treat us like this, the people will fight back.”

A military post in Shan State, photographed on the border with Thailand.  The announcement by Myanmar's military junta to enforce a previously inactive law on compulsory military service has triggered a mass exodus in the crisis-hit country.  Tens of thousands, mainly young people, are currently trying to leave their home countries for Thailand.  Carola Frentzen/dpa

Fighters of the Karen National Union (KNU) during a parade at the border with Thailand.  The KNU is the oldest armed group in the multi-ethnic state of Myanmar.  Athens Zaw Zaw/dpaFighters of the Karen National Union (KNU) during a parade at the border with Thailand.  The KNU is the oldest armed group in the multi-ethnic state of Myanmar.  Athens Zaw Zaw/dpa

Fighters of the Karen National Union (KNU) during a parade at the border with Thailand. The KNU is the oldest armed group in the multi-ethnic state of Myanmar. Athens Zaw Zaw/dpa

- Advertisement -
RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments