In a move that gives indication of the stress it is under, the military junta running the country of Myanmar, also known as Burma, has announced that they are instituting universal conscription for all males between the ages of 18 and 35, and women aged between 18 to 27, with everyone obligated to serve a two-year mandatory military service. For specialists, such as doctors, this is extended to three years’ service up to the age of 45.
In a statement a military spokesman said that:
“The duty to safeguard and defend the nation extends beyond just the soldiers but to all citizens. So I want to tell everyone to proudly follow this people’s military service law.”
Now, if you haven’t been following events in Myanmar, well, let’s just sum up with the fact that the military, who officially took power in a coup in February 2021, are even less popular than a poop in a swimming pool. The coup saw the vast majority of the population turn against them, with millions regularly participating in national strikes and even the formation of local defence groups to fight against the military, as well as a flood of volunteers to the many Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) that have been fighting the army in some cases for decades.
In October 2023 a major offensive was launched by an alliance of EAO’s in Shan State in the northeast of the country which, along with coordinated attacks by other powerful EAO’s throughout Burma, has led to the military hitting crisis point.
In the west the Arakan Army is also on the offensive against junta forces and on top of the territory they have lost and the casualties inflicted on them, the soldiers of the Myanmar Army’s unwillingness to die for the generals was starkly illustrated a few days ago when more than three hundred of their soldiers fled across to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the Arakan.
Over 300 Myanmar junta troops flee to Bangladesh
08 February 2024
Over 300 Myanmar junta troops have fled to Bangladesh, crossing the Myanmar – Bangladesh border, as the Arakan Army has captured junta regime's military bases in the northern and western parts of Rakhine state in… pic.twitter.com/nh7xRUquFQ
— Chindwin News Agency (@TheChindwin) February 11, 2024
The Arakan are also believed to have shot down a regime helicopter last week, though I haven’t been able to confirm this; any Arakan Army folks out there watching who may know the truth of this please feel free to drop me an email.
Arakan Army reportedly shoots down Myanmar junta regime's attack helicopter
04 February 2024
The Arakan Army, one of the most potent ethnic armed groups in Myanmar, has gained significant attention after reportedly shooting down an attack helicopter belonging to the junta… pic.twitter.com/VGwzqgMCaD
— Chindwin News Agency (@TheChindwin) February 4, 2024
But even if not true, it has been a very bad time for Myanmar airpower, who have been losing aircraft at quite a rate recently. I’ve already covered the Kachin shooting down of a helicopter and an attack jet in January, but the Karen in Eastern Burma have also scored a success, shooting down the helicopter of a Brigadier General in late January, resulting in his death and that of his staff.
A short video has emerged online, capturing the dramatic moment of a junta regime helicopter being shot down yesterday by the Cobra Column – a special military operation unit of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in the Mywaddy region of Karen state.
According to several… pic.twitter.com/3iPL7rBuVR
— Chindwin News Agency (@TheChindwin) January 30, 2024
So yes, lots of pressure on the Myanmar military, which no doubt explains their rather desperate measure of bringing in conscription.
Now a brief explanation of how the Myanmar miliary has recruited up to this point might be in order. While I am sure there are those who joined the military out of patriotism, I personally know that many of their so-called recruits are often abducted off the streets by press gangs, undergo exceptionally brutal training to break them and then deliberately addicted to drugs, generally meth amphetamine.
No, not a great way to run an army, but the Myanmar army isn’t really that; it’s an instrument of terror.
Take an incident that is causing a stir on Burmese social media currently. In November two young men were arrested and accused of being members of the People’s Defence Force who are fighting the junta and their lackey’s. In front of a crowd of their fellow villagers they were tortured and then hung from a tree in chains by their elbows and ankles.
They were then set on fire.
The footage is now doing the rounds but really is nothing exceptional by the standards of the Burma army.
This is the force that now intends to conscript anyone too slow to get away from them. I would point out that recruits like this, what with the wild unpopularity of the military, are more likely to surrender the first opportunity they get. But the suspicion is that these levies will be used as literal cannon fodder, driven onto the guns and minefields of the advancing EAO’s and local defence forces to stall them by basically exhausting them with slaughter, preserving the main fighting strength of the army.
We shall see, but certainly I would expect to see further influxes of volunteers to the anti-junta forces, as demonstrated in a recent post by the Karenni Nationalities Defence Forces (KNDF).
Many women are seen completing their military training given by Karenni Nationalities Defense Forces at the headquarters of KNDF's strategic no. 6 in Kayah state of Myanmar, on 09 February.
Since the beginning of the coup in 2021, a significant number of women have been… pic.twitter.com/nODADAYf7T
— Chindwin News Agency (@TheChindwin) February 11, 2024
They are currently graduating the latest class to undergo military training, with many of the participants women. With women also on the junta’s radar as recruits, expect to see many more female soldiers turning up in remote jungle training camps and fighting with local PDF’s in the near future as a preferable option.