Exodus Grips Myanmar

Estelle, a former government worker, knew escape was her only option. The military junta’s announcement of mandatory conscription to bolster its fight against resistance groups sent shivers down her spine. The thought of being forced to fight terrified her.

Estelle is just one of thousands who have chosen to flee their homes in Myanmar since the military service law was introduced in February and implemented in April. Fear of the junta’s brutality has driven many to desperate measures. Some embark on perilous journeys, trekking through jungles and crossing rivers to neighboring countries without proper documentation. The military has tightened its grip on official channels, making legal exit increasingly difficult.

Others have sought refuge in territories controlled by armed groups opposing the military regime. Some even take the drastic step of joining these resistance forces themselves.

This mass exodus comes as the military junta faces its most significant challenge since seizing power in the 2021 coup, which ignited widespread protests. The brutal crackdown on these demonstrations led to the rise of an armed resistance movement. New anti-coup forces have joined forces with established ethnic armed groups, presenting the most formidable opposition to the military in decades.

The situation remains dire. According to the U.N. Human Rights Office, over 5,000 people, including more than 1,000 women, have been killed by the military since the coup. Additionally, an estimated 3 million people have been displaced from their homes.

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