Myanmar Ethnic Armies Condemn Junta’s Conscription Law

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin completed his undergraduate and graduate education at a Texas university and has studied extensively in China. As a former Marine Corps intelligence analyst, he worked in the Indo-Pacific region. His areas of expertise include PLA modernization, particularly PLAN/PLANMC and its expeditionary capabilities, as well as CCP and Chinese domestic politics. He also runs the Sino Talk brand on Instagram and Twitter and is the IndoPacific Desk Chief for Atlas.

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Various ethnic armies in Myanmar spoke out against the State Administration Council’s (SAC) recent activation of its conscription law. Some of the ethnic armies also activated their own conscription laws to prevent the SAC from conscripting people from the areas they control.

Karen National Union

On February 19th, the Karen National Union (KNU) released a statement saying that the Junta cannot implement the conscription law because they lack the authority to do so. The reason why is due to the KNU arguing that the law is “to protect the country from foreign invasion and to provide national reconstruction after natural disasters.” The statement also urged the nation’s population, especially the country’s youth, to oppose the law through political actions or by joining resistance forces. The statement also pointed out that the SAC is drawing Myanmar’s labor resources into the war by activating the law. The organization also urged Junta collaborators to “take responsibility for the political, social, and economic consequences of the law. The KNU said that the only way to destroy the regime’s oppression is to overthrow the military dictatorship (SAC).

Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army-South

On February 19th, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA) announced it would implement its own “military service policy.” In a statement, the RCSS/SSA said that males and females of any ethnic group between the ages of 18 and 45 who live in Shan State will be eligible for conscription. Any individual conscripted to serve in the SSA will be required to serve for six years. The statement also said that the Junta’s own conscription law does not apply to Shan State but only to the people who live in the “mainland,” i.e., Myanmar.

The RCSS will use a preexisting property law that states the council can confiscate homes, personal belongings, and properties of individuals who sell them and travel to other countries to avoid conscription. The law outlines that the RCSS will keep any land that has not been worked for at least three years as village property and then sell it if permission is obtained by the regional governor.

Myanmar Telegram pages announcing that some Ethnic Armies that signed the National Ceasefire Agreement will send troops to serve with the Junta

The individuals will be conscripted if they complete their university studies to work in teaching office fields, people with expertise in electrical or industrial equipment, and individuals who are skilled at equipment and vehicle maintenance. People who have technical skills such as drone flying, IT, or website design and maintenance and those who understand politics, organizing, and record-keeping will also be required to serve. The Thai government also said that those individuals who live in Shan State and are traveling back from China or Laos will also be required to register for military service with the RCSS. The statement also pointed out that the RCSS continued to uphold the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and meets with the Junta on a regular basis.

Chin National Front

The Chin National Front (CNF) also issued a statement on Chin National Day that called for people eligible for conscription to instead assist in defeating the regime. The February 20th statement said the law was “forced recruitment” to use civilians as “human shields” or porters. The statement highlighted that the Junta activated the law to replace the losses it sustained due to the recent battlefield losses, desertions, and defections. The CNF also asked for all Chin people to join to help build Chinland.


The statements the KNU, RCSS/SSA, and CNF released condemning the Junta for enacting the conscription law indicate that some organizations do not want to get involved in the wider conflict. However, the statements also indicate that some of these entities will hedge against providing support for the Junta. For example, the KNU statement was heavily critical of the Junta’s activation of the conscription law and called for people to overthrow the Junta. The statement also pointed out that the conscription law will only drain the country’s labor talent and harm its economy.

The CNF’s statement also criticized the conscription law but also pointed out that the conscripted were to be used as human shields or porters. The CNF also said that the Junta only activated the law because it suffered significant losses due to the recent offensives. However, the CNF urging Chin people to help build Chinland suggests that the CNF wants to entice Chin eligible for conscription to return in a bid to protect them and help build the area.

However, the RCSS/SSA’s statement announcing it will implement its own conscription law indicates that the organization is trying to strike a balance between anti-Junta forces and the SAC. The RCSS said that the Junta’s conscription law does not apply to areas it controls but stops short of criticizing the Junta’s actions. The statement also said that the RCSS continues to abide by the 2015 NCA and meets regularly with the Junta.

The similarities between both laws also indicate that the RCSS wants to prevent its forces or people from being conscripted to prevent being drawn into it. This notion is further reinforced by the RCSS announcing the new conscription policy two days after the SAC announced that ethic armies that signed the NCA would also send troops to aid the Junta. For example, the eligibility requirements outlined by both laws are also very similar, with both the Junta and RCSS wanting skilled people. Another similarity is the age groups that are eligible for conscription under the laws, with both largely having the same requirements. However, it is unlikely that the Junta could compel the KNU, CNF, RCSS/SSA, or other group to provide conscripts because they do not have the necessary military power to force them to do so.