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Myanmar junta bans men from working abroad

Plan to call up men to serve in military for two years has sent thousands queuing for visas outside foreign embassies
Myanmar junta military soldiers parade during a ceremony to mark the country's Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw on March 27.

Myanmar junta military soldiers parade during a ceremony to mark the country's Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw on March 27. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 03, 2024 04:52 AM GMT
Updated: May 03, 2024 04:57 AM GMT

Myanmar's junta has suspended the issuing of permits for men to work abroad, it said, weeks after introducing a military conscription law that led to thousands trying to leave the country.

The junta, which is struggling to crush widespread armed opposition to its rule, in February said it would enforce a law allowing it to call up all men to serve in the military for at least two years.

The move sent thousands queuing for visas outside foreign embassies in Yangon and others crossing into neighboring Thailand to escape the law, according to media reports.

The labor ministry has "temporarily suspended" accepting applications from men who wish to work abroad, the ministry said in a statement posted by the junta's information team late May 2.

The measure was needed to "take more time to verify departure processes and according to other issues," it said, without giving details.

More than 4 million Myanmar nationals were working abroad in 2020, according to an estimate by the International Labour Organization citing figures from the then-government.

Analysts say many more work abroad off the books.

Recruits 

The military service law was authored by a previous junta in 2010 but was never brought into force.

It allows the military to summon all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve for at least two years.

That law also has a stipulation that, during a state of emergency, the terms of service can be extended up to five years and those ignoring a summons to serve can be jailed for the same period.

The Myanmar junta announced a state of emergency when it seized power in 2021, with the army recently extending it for a further six months.

A first batch of several thousand recruits has already begun training under the law, according to pro-military Telegram accounts.

A junta spokesman said the law was needed "because of the situation happening in our country," as it battles both so-called People's Defence Forces and more long-standing armed groups belonging to ethnic minorities.

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

More than 4,900 people have been killed in the military's crackdown on dissent since its February 2021 coup and more than 26,000 others arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

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