March 1, 2024

To Members of the United Nations Security Council
CC: UN Human Rights Council Members
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

Re: Security Council must act now as Myanmar military junta’s forced conscription endangers peace, stability, and human security in Myanmar and the region 

Your Excellencies,

We, 397 civil society organizations, call on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take immediate action to ensure peace and stability in the region following the Myanmar military junta’s illegal enforcement of the conscription law. In particular, we call on Japan, as the President of the UNSC in March 2024, to convene an emergency meeting to put forward a binding resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to impose targeted economic sanctions and a comprehensive arms embargo against the junta, and refer the crisis in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or create an ad hoc tribunal. In addition, the UNSC must provide substantial support to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as declared in Resolution 2669, and assist Myanmar’s neighboring countries to promptly guarantee legal protection for people fleeing the junta’s forced conscription and mass atrocity crimes.

On 10 February 2024, the military junta announced the enforcement of the People’s Military Service Law, which the past military regime passed in 2010. Men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 will be at risk of forced conscription, and the age further extends to 45 and 35, respectively, for those with expert professions. Up to 14 million people across Myanmar are deemed eligible for this forced conscription, which requires serving up to five years during a state of emergency as is currently in place by the junta’s illegal declaration. Individuals face prison sentences of up to five years, hefty fines, or both, for failing to report for duty. The junta also reserves its arbitrary power to recall those who have already finished their military service.

The junta’s forced conscription efforts exacerbate the already unprecedented violence caused by its countrywide terror campaign. As it rapidly loses ground to democratic resistance forces, the junta has resorted to forced conscription as psychological warfare to terrorize the population into submission, force people to kill each other against their conscience, and inflame inter-ethnic and inter-religious tension. This ruthless measure underlines the junta’s calculated move to escalate atrocities, exploiting new conscripts as expendable human shields, porters, and frontline fighters—evident in the Myanmar military’s sordid history, particularly its forced recruitment of children in violation of international law. The forced conscription thus explicitly goes against the UNSC’s demand for an immediate end to all forms of violence in Resolution 2669.

This scheme to forcibly recruit 60,000 men in the first round will compound the severe instability and human insecurity that the junta has already unleashed on Southeast Asia. Young men have been kidnapped or otherwise compelled to join military service, according to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Hundreds of Rohingya in internment camps in Rakhine State are being arrested and recruited into service, or persuaded to enlist in exchange for freedom of movement. Other reports indicate people in Bago Region and Yangon City are being forced to serve, leaving them no other choice but to bribe junta personnel or face outright extortion to evade conscription. Individuals in disenfranchised and impoverished sectors, such as garment workers, lack such options as the junta’s workforce data collection is underway.

Read more: Eng | MM