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Recruitment shortfalls challenge Myanmar's military following coup

Growing recruitment shortfalls of both officer cadets and rank-and-file soldiers have pushed Myanmar's military to adopt a raft of new measures to sustain intake levels, as the ruling junta faces country-wide unrest and a wave of public opprobrium following its February coup.

Recent efforts to address these shortfalls have included extending deadlines for annual applications to the armed forces' (Tatmadaw) premier institutions of military education, the lowering of educational requirements for some ranks, and various ‘off the book' expedients.

For instance, on 2 September military-run media announced that application deadlines for the Defence Services Academy (DSA), the Defence Services Technological Academy, and the Defence Services Medical Academy would be extended for a second time this year until 30 September.

Attracting about 12,000 applicants annually, only 10% of whom are accepted, entry into the three institutes is normally highly competitive, suggesting this year's reportedly precipitous drop is unlikely to be the result of the Covid-19 pandemic: the official reason given for the deadline extensions.

Sources close to the military told Janes that basic educational requirements for private soldiers have been cut from schooling to 6th grade (11–12 years of age) to 4th grade, while entry requirements for engineering and communications units have been cut from 8th grade education to 6th grade.

Sources noted that pressure at the battalion level to maintain numbers has also grown, with majors responsible for recruitment reportedly increasingly turning to ‘buying' new recruits with battalion funds derived from animal husbandry, agricultural production, or illicit trading, or even using their own money.

The amount of money paid to the family of a new recruit has risen from about MMK100,000 in 2017 (about USD74 at the time) to currently MMK2.5 million (USD1,442).

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