Myanmar’s latest batch of military graduates faces brutal reality on front lines

Struggling with a recruitment crisis, desertions and heavy casualties amid daily clashes with resistance forces, Myanmar’s junta has just assigned over 500 fresh graduates from its military academies to battalions, The Irrawaddy reports.

Cadets from the 65th intake of Defense Services Academy and 25th intake of Defense Services Technological Academy graduated in December at a ceremony attended by junta boss Min Aung Hlaing. A total of 583 fresh graduates were appointed lieutenants, according to regime media.

Of the 463 Defense Services Academy graduates, 438 will serve in the army while the other 25 will enter navy service. Of the 120 graduates from the Defense Services Technological Academy, 99 will go to the army, seven to the navy and 14 to the air force, according to the latest (Jan. 12) Myanmar gazette.

The figures represent just the half of the average number of cadets in each intake a decade ago, according to former military officers who have deserted

Prior to the coup, Myanmar’s three military schools – the Defense Services Academy, Defense Services Technological Academy and Defense Services Medical Academy – each attracted some 12,000 applicants annually and only around 10 percent of applications were accepted, according to deserters.

The 65th intake enrolled in 2020 but the number of annual enrolments in each academy has fallen to little more than 100 since the coup in 2021, according to family members of cadets who are currently attending military academies.

The steep fall in applications, say observers, is due to people’s loathing for a Myanmar military that has unleashed deadly crackdowns on civilians, as well as looting or destroying their property.

The regime has been forced to extend deadlines for military academy applications while relaxing eligibility criteria for both officer cadets and soldiers, which is a testimony to falling interest in military jobs, said defectors.

Last year, the military even resorted to a recruitment scam, posting advertisements on social media designed to mislead job seekers into thinking the employer was a private company.

The advert detailed openings for the post of administrative clerk, with accommodation provided. Job-seekers who replied through Facebook Messenger were asked to come for an interview – where they were forcibly recruited to the military.

More than 10,000 soldiers and police have defected to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) since the coup, according to the parallel National Unity Government. Junta troops have been further depleted by heavy casualties and desertions in battles with resistance forces over the past three years.

The situation worsened after the anti-regime ethnic Brotherhood Alliance launched a large-scale offensive known as Operation 1027 in late October. In early December, the regime offered an amnesty to deserters if they returned to their barracks. It also released jailed soldiers from prisons to serve on the frontlines.

Hundreds have been killed and entire battalions have surrendered since the launch of Operation 1027. Six brigadier-generals have surrendered and another was captured in northern Shan State – an indication of how badly the military’s combat capability and morale have declined.

The fresh graduates will enter the fray against this bleak backdrop.

Min Aung Hlaing’s wife Kyu Kyu Hla, under her penname Thiri Pyay Sone May, even authored a poem for junta mouthpiece newspapers to congratulate the fresh graduates, writing: “Sons, you have a historic duty to turn Myanmar into one of the tigers of Asia.”

At December’s graduation ceremony, Min Aung Hlaing urged them to study modern warfare and weapons systems, emphasizing that superpowers are conducting multidimensional warfare.

Not long after the ceremony, six brigadier-generals surrendered to the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, no doubt dismaying the military graduates about to be sent to the front line. So far, the regime has lost control of 33 towns across Myanmar.

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