Myanmar dispatch: military junta’s activation of new conscription law spreads fear among draft-age young women Dispatches, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Myanmar dispatch: military junta’s activation of new conscription law spreads fear among draft-age young women

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.

The 10th of February 2024 was a particularly dark day for the citizens of Myanmar. At 8:00 PM, the Ministry of Information under the ruling State Administration Council (SAC) issued a significant notification regarding the People’s Military Service Law, a compulsory military service statute originally enacted in 2010. Despite its establishment, the act had not been enforced until the SAC’s declaration. Section 1(d) of the act states that the law “shall come into effect on a date specified by the President of the National Peace and Development Council through a formal notification.”

The announcement of the activation of the Act has caused widespread concern among Myanmar’s citizens, particularly parents, due to the age range of military conscription stipulated in the law: 18 to 35 years for men and 18 to 27 years for women. Given the ongoing military coup since February 1st, 2021, and the resultant civil unrest throughout the country, many believe this move is an attempt to conscript soldiers to fight for the junta.

Women who stand to be conscripted have been especially worried and devastated by this law. One 26-year-old woman recently shared her anxiety with me, saying that the notification has robbed her of sleep. She said she feels perpetually unsafe, whether at home or out, especially in light of the military’s actions and the disappearances of many without any information prior to this announcement. The fear of being forcibly conscripted looms large in her mind, prompting her to consider fleeing her home.

Another young woman, 25, expressed her uncertainty and fear. A final-year law student, her education was halted by the coup, leaving her without a degree, passport, or proof of English proficiency—barriers exacerbated by her family’s low income. She desperately wishes to avoid conscription but sees no viable way to leave the country or evade this fate, saying, “I feel unsafe, unsure of when or by whom I might be taken for soldier collection. My worries are endless.”

These stories reflect the deep-seated fears and concerns among Myanmar’s young women in the wake of the SAC’s announcement regarding the activation of the military service law. As a law student myself, I recognize the potential benefits of the law under different circumstances, advocating that every eligible citizen should serve their country as an educational opportunity. However, the current political climate in Myanmar under the military coup complicates its implementation, suggesting ulterior and self-interested motives on the part of the military junta amid the nation’s present turmoil.