Date:  February 20, 2024


Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – Burma’s military government announced this week that it would begin a national conscription amid high-profile losses in its war against the various ethnic militias resisting its authoritarian rule. The draft applies to all men aged 18-35 and all women aged 18-27, according to an official announcement, and can extend for up to five years.

Thousands of young people attempted to flee the country after the announcement, gathering by the thousands in front of the Thai embassy in Yangon. Two members of the crowd died in the crush to escape service for a deeply unpopular military government responsible that has waged a decades-long war on the Burmese people and killed at least 4,500 since taking control of the government in 2021.

Earlier this week the junta sentenced three brigadier generals to death for surrendering Laukkai, a strategic town on Burma’s eastern border with China that has seen intense fighting in recent months. The surrender has been hailed as a significant victory for the country’s ethnic militia alliances and the junta’s largest military defeat in decades.

On February 8, in Burma’s western Rakhine state, the ethnic Arakan Army seized Mrauk-U, the former capital of the Arakan kingdom, along with the towns of Minbya and Kyauktaw, according to The Diplomat. The Arakan Army has seen several high-profile victories since fighting resumed in 2023, including the downing of a helicopter and numerous navy vessels.

Though worsening, the violence in Burma is far from new. Ongoing since the country gained independence in 1948, the conflict in Burma is the world’s longest ongoing war and has caused hundreds of thousands of fatalities since its inception. Most of the victims are among the civilian population, which the Tatmadaw is known to attack indiscriminately with airstrikes and brutal ground operations.

The Tatmadaw is losing ground in its fight to control the country. Reports suggest that anti-junta militias gains have reduced the area under solid Tatmadaw control to as little as 17%, according to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar.

Burma is a patchwork mosaic of ethnic and religious groups. Though a strong majority of the population is ethnic Burman, and an even greater percentage is Buddhist, the communities that make up the remainder are well-established, well-organized, and, for the most part, predate the formation of the modern state by centuries.

In many cases, Burma’s ethnic minorities have taken on a distinct religious identity as well. About 20-30% of ethnic Karen are Christians, while other groups—such as the Chin—are over 90% Christian. Rakhine State contains a large Muslim Rohingya population against whom the junta continues to wage genocide. This overlap of ethnic and religious identity has created a volatile situation for non-Buddhists across the country.

HOW TO PRAY: Pray for protection for civilians who are caught up in this conflict. Pray for this war to end quickly and peacefully. Pray for the gospel to spread throughout Myanmar.