Military-ruled Burma has enacted a law that could conscript men and women into the armed forces and mete out prison sentences of up to five years for draft dodgers.
According to an official document, the law, dated November 4 2010, but yet to be made public, will come into force when proclaimed by the ruling military council, said an official gazette with limited circulation.
Burma, which currently has a volunteer army, boasts a 400,000-strong military which ranks among the largest in the world. Its troops are engaged in continuing conflicts with several ethnic minority groups seeking autonomy from the central government.
Some analysts say conflicts could escalate as more ethnic groups refuse to obey a constitution and government they say will deprive them of even more rights than they currently enjoy. The government is set to replace the junta, possibly towards the end of this month.
The law states every man between 18 and 45 and women aged 18 to 35 may be drafted to serve for two years, which could be increased to five in times of national emergencies. Both sexes are required to register at 18.
Those who fail to report for military service could get three years in prison, a fine or both, and those who deliberately inflict injury upon oneself to avoid conscription could be imprisoned for up to five years, fined or both.
In times of national crisis, the government can recruit all or some of those eligible for military service.
Civil servants, students, people serving prison terms or those taking care of elderly parents will have their military service temporary postponed but could be called later to serve.
Those totally exempt are members of religious orders, married women or divorcees with children and disabled people.