SINGAPORE: Mandatory military service is not an uncommon practice around the world. In Myanmar, such a law was first introduced in 1959, but had never been enforced.

After a military-led coup in 2021, army chief Min Aung Hlaing hinted at conscription – an idea that didn’t take off until three years later, with an announcement on Feb 10, 2024.

What are the details of the conscription law?

All men between 18 and 35 years old and all women aged between 18 and 27 will have to serve up to two years in the military if called up.

There will be a higher age limit of 45 for men and 35 for women – and a longer three-year term of service – for some vocations such as doctors and engineers.

The length of service can be extended to five years during a state of emergency – a situation Myanmar has been in since the coup.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told media at least 13 million people will be eligible. The country’s population was reported at 55 million in 2021. 

He said each recruitment batch would involve 5,000 conscripts, with the first intake in mid-April after Myanmar’s new year holiday known as Thingyan.

Young women will be recruited only from the fifth batch.

The aim is to recruit 60,000 soldiers in a year, to a military whose current total strength is thought to lie between 200,000 and 300,000.

Evading conscription will be punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine. Members of religious orders are exempt, while civil servants and students can be granted temporary deferments.

But on Wednesday (Feb 21), the decision to recruit women was seemingly scrapped, with Zaw Min Tun saying there were no plans yet in this area.


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