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Facing setbacks against resistance forces, Myanmar’s military government activates conscription law

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s military government on Saturday activated for the first time a decade-old conscription law that makes young men and women subject to at least two years of military service if called up, effective immediately. The announcement of the measure on state television amounts to a major, though tacit, admission that the army is struggling to contain the nationwide armed resistance against its rule.

Under the 2010 People’s Military Service Law, passed under a previous military government, males between the ages of 18 and 45 and females between 18 and 35 can be drafted into the armed forces for two years, extendable to five years during national emergencies.

The current ruling military council, called the State Administration Council, came to power in 2021 after ousting the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The law has been activated in the wake of the army’s biggest setbacks since the countrywide conflict erupted after the takeover. A surprise offensive launched last October by an alliance of armed ethnic organization in less than three months captured a large swathe of territory in northeastern Myanmar along the Chinese border.

The rout inspired resistance forces in other parts of the country to launch their own attacks. In recent weeks, fighting in the western state of Rakhine caused hundreds of state security personnel to flee into neighboring Bangladesh.

The army faces two enemies, the pro-democracy forces formed after the army takeover, and better-trained and equipped ethnic minority armed groups that have been battling for greater autonomy for decades. There are alliances between the resistance groups.

Evading conscription is punishable by three to five years in prison and a fine.