Conscription Law Likely to Drive More Youths out of Burma
13 January 2011: The new decree recently issued by Burma’s ruling military junta obligating every citizen over the age of 18 years to enter military service will likely cause more young people to flee the country, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) has warned.
According to a new law enacted by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) on November 4, and entered into the official gazette on December 17 last year, young men and women between the ages of 18 and 35 are required to serve in the Burmese military for at least two years. Failure to perform military service is punishable by imprisonment of up to three years.
But the new decree is likely to cause more youths to flee the country to avoid being forcibly called to serve in the military.
Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Executive Director of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) said, “When enforced, this new measure will almost certainly cause an exodus of more youths out of Burma as we have seen in the pre-election period, in which dozens of young people fled to India from Chin State to avoid conscription into the militia forces.”
According to CHRO, several dozen youths from southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township fled to India in January of 2010 when the Burmese army tried to forcibly enlist them for the militia service.
Other incidents of forcible conscription involving minors and high school students were reported by CHRO from Matupi Township.Two army deserters recently interviewed by the CHRO said that they were drafted in 2007 before they were only 16 and 17 respectively by troops from Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion (304) stationed at Belkong village of Maupti Township. CHRO also reported that since June 2009 as many as 1,160 youths were conscripted into the militia service in the Matupi Township area.
Young people are more likely to be called to perform mandatory and unpaid work, as well as, targeted for conscription into the army and militia services. In Chin State, these measures have caused the forced migration of people, especially the youths, out of Chin State. More refugees in neighboring countries are young people under the age of 35.