Myanmar’s conscription law was first introduced in 2010 but was not enforced until 10 February 2024. The conscription law, called People’s Military Service Law, mandates all males aged 18 to 35 and all females aged 18 to 27 to be enlisted in the military for up to two years which can be extended to five years. This has caused fear, confusion, and dilemma among Myanmar youths, including the Nagas.

A reliable source, who wished to maintain anonymity for safety reasons, revealed to this newspaper that the Junta has started taking a census of the number of boys and girls in every Naga village. Although recruitment has not begun, the villagers are afraid that they may be taken at any time. In town areas like Leshi in the Naga Self-Administered Zone of Sagaing Region, the Junta has reportedly begun taking them for recruitment.

This has prompted the Nagas in Myanmar to appeal to the Western Nagas (Nagaland) in despair and dismay.

“We want the attention of Western Nagas because they will find ways and means to protect and defend us. Without the Western Nagas’ support and sincerity, no matter what we say, there will be no point in raising our voice,” the source told this newspaper.

“We really hope that along with the development of Western Nagas, they will also focus on Naga unity,” added the source.

Myanmar military
Myanmar military columns, which will take part in the parade for the 79th Anniversary of Armed Forces Day, which falls on 27 March 2024, took a full-dressed rehearsal at the Nay Pyi Taw Parade Ground on 22 March 2024. (Photo: Ministry of Information, Government of Myanmar)

It was also disclosed that most other ethnic groups are being defended by their armed groups against the Junta’s conscription law, but Nagas of Myanmar, due to fragmented armed groups, are unable to effectively tackle the present situation.

“Moreover, we also don’t have an apex CSO or a public organization; thus, we are unable to make a decision, and youths are confused and in a dilemma,” said the source, adding that apart from the Junta, there is also the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) under the NUG (National Unity Government), a government in exile opposed to the Junta and a product of the political party NLD (National League for Democracy) fighting against the junta government, and then there are the Naga armed groups.

“Other ethnic groups have well-organized and strong armed groups, so they have been defended by the armed groups. But Nagas are not like that. We are not defended by armed groups nor CSOs. We have only about two student bodies – NSO and ENSA who are doing what they can with their limited resources and authority,” the source added.

It was also stressed that Nagas in Myanmar are unable to raise their voice as they fear the consequences that may come.

“Nagas in Myanmar cannot raise their voice, so we want the attention from Western Nagas, whether it be political, armed groups, or civil societies,” added the source.

It may be noted that major Naga armed groups in Myanmar are NSCN-K(YA), NSCN-K (Ang Mai), NSCN-IM, and FGN. There are also other armed groups such as Naga PDF and Eastern Naga National Group which recently merged with NSCN-IM. So far, only KYA has denounced the conscription law in writing.

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According to the source, prior to the implementation of the conscription law, Naga armed groups were divided in their opinions, with some supporting the PDF/NUG and others supporting the Junta based on their political preferences. However, it has been observed that resentment towards the Junta has significantly increased among the Nagas since the enforcement of the conscription law.

Sources also revealed that they plan on meeting Naga Hoho, NSF, NMA, and GNF soon.

Even though the situation presently is tense and is so far absent from intimidation, threat, and violence, the sources said, the situation may change soon.

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