Myanmar Military Struggling to Recruit New Officers

By The Irrawaddy 3 September 2021

The Myanmar military is struggling to recruit new officers, as far fewer people apply to the country’s military academies following the junta’s coup and subsequent brutal crackdowns on anti-regime protesters.

The shortage of new officer recruits is a further blow to the military, which has seen more than 1,500 personnel, including a hundred officers, defect from the army following the military takeover in February.

On Thursday, the regime announced in junta-controlled media that it has extended the deadline for applications to the academies for the “second time”, after the deadline was initially extended in August, supposedly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, a former army captain with knowledge of the application process said that the extension was because there were only “around 100 applicants” so far for the country’s three military academies.

“Around 100 people have submitted applications this year to join the military academies. Most of the candidates are from military families,” said Captain Lin Htet Aung, an army defector and founder of People’s Embrace, a Facebook group set up to encourage soldiers to desert their units and join the resistance against the military regime,

Prior to the coup, Myanmar’s three military schools – the Defence Services Academy, Defence Science and Technology Academy and Defence Services Medical Academy – each attracted some 12,000 applicants annually. Only around ten percent of candidates were normally accepted each year, said Capt. Lin Htet Aung.

He added that the steep fall in applicants is a consequence of the coup, referring to the military’s subsequent lethal crackdowns on the Myanmar people, as well as the looting and destruction of civilians’ property. As of Thursday, 1,043 people have been killed by the junta since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

“There used to be many young people who wanted to become military officers and heroes. But now no one wants to join the military because of the coup,” said the captain.

Another former captain, Nyi Thuta, who defected from the army in March, said that [under the regime] “people are ashamed to attend the Defence Services Academy or to join the military”.

He is a co-founder of the People’ Soldier group, which provides help to striking soldiers, as well as persuading military personnel to desert and join the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Currently, five to 10 soldiers are defecting from the military daily, according to the People’s Soldier group.

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