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Myanmar: Military junta even greater threat to civilians as it imposes military draft, warns UN expert

21 February 2024

NEW YORK (21 February 2024) – Myanmar’s military junta is becoming an even greater threat to civilians, even as it shows further signs of weakness and desperation through the imposition of mandatory military service, warned a UN expert.

Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, today called for stronger international action to protect increasingly vulnerable populations.

“While wounded and increasingly desperate, the Myanmar military junta remains extremely dangerous,” he said. “Troop losses and recruitment challenges have become existential threats for the junta, which faces vigorous attacks on frontlines all across the country. As the junta forces young men and women into the military ranks, it has doubled down on its attacks on civilians using stockpiles of powerful weapons.”

On 10 February, the junta issued an order that purportedly brought the 2010 People’s Military Service Law into force. Citizen men aged 18 to 35 and citizen women aged 18 to 27 are eligible for conscription, though “professional” men and women can be conscripted up to the ages of 45 and 35 respectively. Those who evade military service or help others evade military service are subject to up to five years imprisonment. A junta spokesperson has indicated that the junta intends to conscript 5,000 individuals per month beginning in April.

In the face of inaction by the Security Council, the Special Rapporteur urged States to strengthen and coordinate measures to reduce the junta’s access to the weapons and financing it needs to sustain its attacks on the people of Myanmar.

“Make no mistake, signs of desperation, such as the imposition of a draft, are not indications that the junta and its forces are less of a threat to the people of Myanmar. In fact, many are facing even greater dangers.”

“By seeking to activate the conscription law, the junta is trying to justify and expand its pattern of forced recruitment, which is already impacting civilian populations around the country. In recent months, young men have reportedly been kidnapped from the streets of Myanmar’s cities or otherwise compelled into joining the military’s ranks. Villagers have reportedly been used as porters and human shields,” said Andrews. “Young people are horrified by the possibility of being forced to participate in the junta’s reign of terror. The numbers fleeing across borders to escape conscription will surely skyrocket.”

The Special Rapporteur also called for an infusion of humanitarian aid for impacted communities, including through the provision of cross-border aid.

“I implore the international community to provide increased levels of humanitarian aid to those impacted by the conflict while supporting leaders committed to a democratic transition process that affirms human rights, transparency, and accountability,” he said.

“Now, more than ever, the international community must act urgently to isolate the junta and protect the people of Myanmar.”


Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar 

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