ASIA/MYANMAR - Forced recruitment pushes young people into the ranks of the resistance

Friday, 7 June 2024 military   armed conflicts   civil war  

Yangon (Agenzia Fides) - The military junta of Myanmar, engaged in the ongoing civil conflict, is trying to strengthen its ranks with the forced recruitment campaign announced last February and has now recruited 9,000 new soldiers nationwide, reports the research center "Burma Affairs and Conflict Study". According to Fides sources, the defeats and losses suffered by the regular army on the battlefield have accelerated this process. According to the law on military service, men between the ages of 18 and 45 can be conscripted. Fides sources also report that families are very worried because many young conscripts do not want to be drafted, while the first arrests of young conscientious objectors are being recorded.
The current strategy of the military government is causing many young people to flee to neighboring Thailand to avoid military service, or it is pushing young people to join the so-called "People's Defense Forces" that emerged from the resistance against the army. Indeed, after the junta introduced conscription, armed resistance groups are inundated with recruitment requests: "We don't really want to take up arms, but the Burmese regime leaves us no choice. We have the choice between serving in the army or in the People's Militia, we are on the side of the people. We will not join an army that commits violence and atrocities against its own citizens," say young people from different backgrounds (university students, graduates, professionals) who want to avoid compulsory conscription into the Burmese army.
The Bamar People's Liberation Army (BPLA), which is fighting government forces in Karen and Shan states, is seeing an increase in recruits, as is the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), which continues to recruit and train young people fleeing conscription. "The conscription law," said Fides source, who asked not to be identified, "is proving to be counterproductive and instead strengthens the resistance by fueling the will of the people to defeat the military." According to local sources, more than 26,000 young people have turned to "People's Embrace", a mediation group that helps conscripts and government soldiers leave their barracks and join the armed resistance by connecting them with the various resistance militias in the various areas. Also in the west of the country, the "Chin National Defense Force" (CNDF) has reported over 200 new recruits since the start of conscription, mainly from Chin State and the neighboring Sagaing region. Referring to the troubled Sagaing region, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres today, June 7, expressed "deep concern" about the escalation of violence in Myanmar.
Guterres condemned the recent attacks by the Burmese army, which reportedly killed dozens of civilians in Rakhine State and Sagaing region. According to local reports, on June 3, a military junta aircraft bombed a group of civilians during a wedding ceremony in Sagaing region, killing 28 people and wounding 40 others, and then massively shelled the area, considered a rebel stronghold, with artillery. More than two thousand civilian residents of six villages in Mingin district were forced to flee, further increasing the number of internally displaced people. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/6/2024)