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Myanmar youths start receiving conscription notices

People’s Defence Force rebels say fighting near Thai border is taking heavy toll on military
People gather outside the embassy of Thailand to get visas in Yangon in this Feb 16, 2024, photo after Myanmar's military government said it would impose military service. More than 1,000 people lined up at the Thai embassy in Yangon as young people sought to leave Myanmar after military said it would enforce a law allowing it to call up all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve for at least two years, as it struggles to quell opposition to its 2021 coup.

People gather outside the embassy of Thailand to get visas in Yangon in this Feb 16, 2024, photo after Myanmar's military government said it would impose military service. More than 1,000 people lined up at the Thai embassy in Yangon as young people sought to leave Myanmar after military said it would enforce a law allowing it to call up all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve for at least two years, as it struggles to quell opposition to its 2021 coup. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 25, 2024 04:45 AM GMT
Updated: March 25, 2024 06:33 AM GMT

The Myanmar junta has begun mailing out conscription notices to young men and women designed to bolster its ranks by 5,000 troops a month amid defections and battlefield losses inflicted by heavy fighting with ethnic militias and the People’s Defence Force (PDF).

Standardized notices addressed to men aged between 18 and 35 and women of 18 to 27 years of age were received last week after the junta announced it would enforce a dormant conscription law that carried a warning that “failure to report will result in prosecution."

“Those letters are being received by friends back home,” a recent PDF recruit told UCA News in the Thai/Myanmar border town of Mae Sot.

“I know the military wants to conscript me so I came here to join the revolution. I will not fight for the junta.”

Another PDF recruit said: “There’s nowhere to live. I don’t want to go abroad. I don’t want to fight for the military and I now will fight them until the end. If I can only live in the jungle then okay.”

Aerial bombardments, heavy fighting and defections were reported along the frontier last week including defections which the PDF — the armed wing of the opposition National Unity Government (NUG) — says is indicative of losses suffered by the junta led by General Min Aung Hlaing.

Two batches of troops who crossed the border near here were initially reported by UCA News and Radio Free Asia (RFA). The first numbered 48 and crossed on March 19 after attacks were launched by Karen rebels.

Another 26 soldiers fled for Thailand near the Myawaddy-Mae Sot crossing on March 21 where Thai soldiers confiscated their weapons  after violence escalated inside Myanmar which also claimed the life of a Baptist pastor, according to the Karen Information Center.

A police officer was also killed in northern Chin state after the ethnic Chinland Defence Force (CDF) launched an attack on military troops based in a school, the CDF said.

Also in the north, the ethnic Kachin Independence Army claimed control of another junta base on March 24 morning, forcing 50 soldiers to flee. The rebel group says it has seized control of nine junta strongholds in the past three days.

Analysts said the PDF and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) are prepping for a major offensive in April, adding a sense of urgency to the military and its recruitment drive through conscription.

The United States Institute for Peace says the military can claim about 150,000 personnel but only some 70,000 troops are combat-ready. David Gum Awng, an NUG deputy minister for international cooperation, has previously told this journalist that those numbers are not sufficient.

Combined NUG-EAO strength is estimated at 200,000 troops. About 135,000 members are from about 20 EAOs and 65,000 soldiers are in the PDF. They are backed by some 200,000 state workers in the Civil Disobedience Movement.

“Their main issue is fighting as a cohesive force with an effective political and military strategy waged at ground level, so everyone is on the same page via a direct allied-command and control entity,” said independent military researcher Ross Milosevic.

“If they can overcome their differences, then the junta could be staring at defeat by the end of the year,” he said.

The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, a group of experts supporting democracy efforts in Myanmar, says the junta can only claim "stable control" over 17 percent of the country, another 23 percent is contested while the PDF-EAOs hold effective control over 52 percent.

Meanwhile, the Thai military says it was to send an aid convoy for the Thai Red Cross humanitarian mission in Myanmar to Mae Sot on March 25 to be distributed to villagers west of Myawaddy who have suffered from last week’s fighting, a source said quoting Transborder News.

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