Young people flock to Thai embassy in Myanmar after military draft announcement

Over a thousand individuals gathered at the Thai embassy in Yangon on Friday, February 16, as Myanmar’s youth looked for ways to escape the country following the military’s announcement of mandatory military service. The junta’s declaration last weekend requires all men aged 18 to 35 and women aged 18 to 27 to serve at least two years, amid ongoing efforts to suppress resistance to its rule since the 2021 coup.

Facing significant armed resistance three years into its control, the junta’s power is contested by a coalition of ethnic minority groups, which have inflicted notable defeats on the military. Following the junta’s decision to activate the “People’s Military Service Law,” young Myanmar citizens have flooded the Thai embassy in Yangon seeking visas to flee.

An AFP journalist reported seeing a queue of 1,000 to 2,000 individuals outside the embassy, a stark increase from the usual numbers seen before the military’s announcement. To cope with the surge, the embassy is distributing 400 numbered tickets daily.

In response to growing opposition, the junta is equipping pro-military militias to combat both the “People’s Defence Forces” opposing the coup and established ethnic armed organizations. Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun cited the country’s tumultuous condition as the reason for the new military service requirement. Since the coup in February 2021, over 4,500 individuals have died in the crackdown on dissent, with more than 26,000 detained, as per a local watchdog.