Irregularities taint military draft lottery in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady

Residents say not all of those eligible for service are being entered in selection pools.
By RFA Burmese
2024.03.18
Irregularities taint military draft lottery in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady The lottery selection for military service is held in Myanmar’s Hinthada township on March 18, 2024.
Citizen journalist

Authorities in southwestern Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region have commenced lotteries to select who will be drafted into the military from among lists of draft-eligible youths, but residents say the process is tainted by irregularities.

The announcement last month of a conscription law, prompting youths of fighting age to flee to areas controlled by rebel groups or leave the country to avoid service. While the military regime says it will not begin drafting people until April, RFA Burmese has received reports indicating that forced recruitment is already underway.

The draft comes as the military tries to replenish its ranks after suffering a series of battlefield defeats to rebel forces, including the surrender of hundreds of soldiers. 

Residents of Ayeyarwady region told RFA that authorities in the townships of Pyapon, Myaungmya, and Hinthada began instituting lotteries for the draft at the village level on Saturday, after compiling lists of residents aged 20-30. The selection process is being supervised by relevant administrators, officials and community elders, they said.

But the lotteries have raised hackles in communities where residents say not everyone on lists of the draft-eligible are being added to the selection pool.

"When the neighborhood elders compile a list, those included are required to attend the [lottery] meeting,” said one resident of Hinthada who was among those selected for service. “However … some people on the list are not called upon … They are neither employed nor studying. So why are these people being left out?”

The resident who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns, said that “only a minority are included” in the lottery.

Some who have taken part in the draft lottery accused authorities of “administrative dishonesty,” although they were unable to provide details or evidence of their claims.

RFA has reported that amid forced recruitment drives in other parts of the country, some residents have been able to avoid service by paying “fines” to authorities.

Another resident of Hinthada told RFA that in some neighborhoods in the township, those selected in the draft lottery were immediately taken away by authorities.

"After the draw, the person who was chosen must go,” said the resident. “In a nearby neighborhood, people said they were taken at once.”

A resident of Pyapon told RFA that lotteries for military service were held on Sunday in some of the township’s villages, but said some of those chosen had managed to “avoid participation.”

Attempts by RFA to ascertain why some draft-eligible residents were omitted from lotteries remain inconclusive.

Tragedy following lottery

Reports of conscription irregularities came as RFA learned that one young man in Ayeyarwady’s Kangyidaunt township took his own life after being selected to serve in the military.

The entrance to the Ayeyarwady region’s Kangyidaunt township is seen in an undated photo. (Ayeyarwaddy Times)
The entrance to the Ayeyarwady region’s Kangyidaunt township is seen in an undated photo. (Ayeyarwaddy Times)

Residents of Kangyidaunt’s Pathein district said that on Saturday, a lottery was held and three young men from Yae Twin Chaung village were chosen for service.

A 20-year-old from among the three men, who was known to be against the draft, died by suicide the following day, said one of the residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.

"I learned that he died that evening after receiving emergency medical treatment at the Pathein Public Hospital,” said the resident. “His family has been summoned by the local police station for interrogation."

A source who lives in proximity to Yae Twin Chaung also confirmed to RFA that the man had taken his own life after being selected for service in a lottery overseen by village elders.

Although there is no positive proof that the man’s death and his selection in the draft lottery are related, it highlights the tensions young Burmese men are facing due to conscription.

Young adults aged 20-30 are eligible for conscription in Ayeyarwady region through lotteries, residents told RFA. Typically, two or three people are chosen from each village or ward.

Youths in Ayeyarwady region have told RFA they are reluctant to serve in the military.

Attempts by RFA to contact Khin Maung Kyi, the junta’s social affairs minister and spokesperson for Ayeyarwady region, for comment on the recruitment process went unanswered Monday.

Junta spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun announced on Feb. 15 that 50,000 people would be recruited annually under the country’s draft law.

Based on Myanmar’s 2019 transit census, at least 13 million people are eligible to serve, he said.

Translated by Kalyar Lwin. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.

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