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Myanmar conscription ‘may cause more refugees fleeing to Malaysia’
Published on: Saturday, February 24, 2024
By: FMT, Rex Tan
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Myanmar conscription ‘may cause more refugees fleeing to Malaysia’
A military parade in the Myanmar capital on Armed Forces Day last year. The military junta has plans to conscript 60,000 young men and women every year. (AP pic)
PETALING JAYA: A refugee activist for the Chin community in Myanmar says he fears plans to draft more young men and women into the Myanmar army in April will lead to a greater exodus of refugees to Malaysia.

James Bawi Thang Bik of the Myanmar Ethnic Organisation said Malaysia could be a destination for the Burmese to escape the civil war.

He said the military junta in Myanmar, formerly known as Burmah, may ask other nations to deport refugees and Burmese back to Myanmar to enter military service.

He said the junta might deny visa renewals for Burmese people overseas, which would lead to more undocumented Myanmar refugees in Malaysia, and provide the junta an excuse to have the refugees deported.

“We need Malaysia to come out with mechanisms or security measures to protect Burmese refugees,” James said at a press conference here.

Earlier this month, Myanmar’s junta declared a law mandating conscription of men aged 18 to 35 and women aged 18 to 27 for up to two years to begin in April.

A United Nations report said the junta seeks to recruit 60,000 new members a year into mandatory service. Retired security personnel would also be called up as the junta struggles to crush an insurgency.

The country has been in turmoil since the military seized power from an elected government in a 2021 coup.

Emilie Palmy Pradichit, executive director of the human rights group Manushya Foundation, urged Malaysia to clarify its stance on transnational repression – the targeting of dissidents abroad by the Junta – as more Burmese refugees are expected to arrive in Malaysia.

Emilie claimed that there are cases of transnational repression happening in Malaysia but refugees are afraid of publicising them to avoid exposing their identities.

A 21-year-old undocumented migrant who attended the forum said he is very afraid of the junta government’s latest conscription order as he “wouldn’t want to serve in the military and kill his own people”.

He urged Malaysia to let the refugees in until Myanmar is peaceful again.

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