Myanmar dispatch: military junta’s activation of compulsory military service law is a blow to Myanmar’s youth, and to its future Dispatches
Provided to JURIST
Myanmar dispatch: military junta’s activation of compulsory military service law is a blow to Myanmar’s youth, and to its future

Myanmar law students are reporting for JURIST on challenges to the rule of law in their country under the military junta that deposed the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. 

On Saturday, 10 February 2024, the Myanmar military junta announced the enforcement of the People’s Military Law (State Peace and Development Council Law No. 27/ 2010). Per section 1(b) of that law, men from the age of 18 to 35 and women from the age of 18 to 27 will be arbitrarily summoned to serve in the military. 

Although the duration of such military service is said to be no longer than 24 months [section 3], the military junta retained its arbitrary power to extend the service up to 5 years “if the state is under an emergency” [section 4]. Furthermore, per section 21(a), the military reserved its arbitrary power to mobilise and summon those who have already finished their military service “When there arises or there is sufficient reason to arise a state of emergency endangering defence and security of state in a region or in the whole state.” Anyone who tries to avoid this service is at the risk of imprisonment less than 5 years [section 24]. 

The military junta activated this law at this moment as one of its many wicked means to oppress the Myanmar public further. 

First, this seems to be an attempt to use innocent citizens and frontline soldiers as human shields while the junta stays at the back. After having suffered several defeats at the hands of the People’s Defense Force (PDF), the military junta is now losing this battle both de facto and de jure. 

Second, in activating the law the military junta is targeting Myanmar young people, who are the most active age group in resistance against the government. Young people refusing to attend any university or institute operated by the military juntas are vital for Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement. While section 15 (a) said the military will allow “students” to “temporarily postpone the military service duty,” section 2 (g) of the law restrictively sets out the definition of “students” as those who attend a university “operated and acknowledged” by them. The military junta is once again targeting the lives of young people directly and attempting to slow down the progress of CDM indirectly. 

Third, the right to life and the right to education have already become rare luxuries for many Myanmar young people. This announcement only doubles the worries of many young people residing in Myanmar right now. In the three years since the military coup, many young people have tried to leave Myanmar for safety, for education and for better life quality. This is already causing a brain-drain and this news only adds gasoline to fire by hindering Myanmar people who are temporarily residing in foreign lands from returning to Myanmar until the military junta is completely defeated.