International Desk: Myanmar’s army, known as the Tatmadaw, faces its biggest threat since seizing power two and a half years ago. The military junta is battling ethnic rebel groups to keep control of the country’s border towns. Various groups of well-armed rebels have joined forces for the first time in their quest to restore democratic rule.
Due to the violence, people are fleeing to neighboring countries, internal unrest has caught the attention of the world stage.
After the government was seized by the Tatmadaw in a coup in February 2021, ethnic rebel groups, mainly based in Myanmar’s border regions, organized armed opposition to the junta.
In recent advances, the rebels have captured nearly a hundred outposts in the north of the country, including several key cities and important trade routes. The offensive began in Shan State last month. Behind it is an alliance of three ethnic armies. Their goal is to overthrow the military junta and restore democratic rule. Their rebellion has emboldened resistance forces elsewhere in the country, with rebels taking over several cities. Military-installed-President Myint Sue has warned that the country is at risk of collapse.
He said that “Myanmar will be divided into different parts if the government does not effectively control what is happening in the border area”.
The insurgents captured half of the country’s 8,000 square kilometer area through four attacks.
The first attack took place in Shan State in the north, on 27 October. During Operation 1027, the attack was led by the “Three Brotherhood Alliance”, consisting of three ethnic groups. These include the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Taeng National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA). The Brotherhood alliance also included fighters from Rakhine State, further south-west of the country.
A second attack, ‘Operation 1107’, followed on 7 November. So that the Karenni resistance forces captured at least two military bases in southeastern Kayah state. Operation 1107 was launched to liberate Kayah State and support the resistance’s advance on Pyinmana near the junta’s Naypyitaw fortress.
The Arakan Army launched its latest offensive in Rakhine state last Monday. This is very important because a cease-fire agreement was in place with the Tatmadaw before launching the offensive. Finally, on the same day, the Chinese resistance forces, which were relatively effective in fighting the military junta, occupied other territories.
The beginning of the end of junta?
As these events indicate, virtually all border areas have passed into the hands of resistance forces and the military/Tatmad are also presumed to have lost control. Media reports indicate that some 447 junta operatives in northern Shan State, Kaya, Chin, Rakhine, Mon State, Sagaing and Magwe regions have laid down their arms and surrendered in the past few weeks.
The critical phase will begin when ethnic resistance forces attack the heartland of Myanmar, especially north of Mandalay. The question is, will these successes encourage Myanmar’s opposition to join the rebel forces? Will the military create a difficult situation for the government? The defense minister of the civilian National Unity Government, U Yi Man, has hinted at the possibility that nationwide deterrence operations are now being coordinated under a single nationwide strategy. As the war spread, a humanitarian disaster befell the local population. Even before this current invasion, millions of people had already been displaced. These displacement camps have also been targeted by the junta’s airstrikes.
Reports indicate the military is unable to deploy reinforcements to areas under attack to restore or support forces fighting the insurgents. As the pro-democracy ethnic insurgency continues to gain ground, the junta is expected to withdraw to Naypyidaw and try to control major centers such as the financial capital Yangon. The military government has arrested about 20,000 people, with the number increasing almost daily.
China playing in both sides
China has strategic interests in Myanmar. They have a railway project through Mandalay and the pipeline is going to the Bay of Bengal. While China is supporting the military junta, there are reports that the current ethnic attacks would not have gone ahead without Beijing’s support. The United Wa State Army (UWSA), the most powerful ethnic armed group controlling an autonomous region within Myanmar’s northeastern Shan State, enjoys significant material and political support from Beijing. Although the Wa Army has said it will not take sides in the ongoing fighting between the Myanmar government and an ethnic coalition, it remains a significant arms supplier to ethnic armed forces. So basically, Beijing is officially supporting the junta but also arming the ethnic rebels. The Chinese have good relations with the National League for Democracy, the political party of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was in power from 2015 to 2020. Its interest lies in restoring stability to Myanmar so that the energy projects it has invested in can happen. Restarted safely. China’s interest is in restoring stability to Myanmar so that the energy projects it has invested in can safely resume.
Myanmar people are refugees in India
Meanwhile, thousands of Myanmar nationals have crossed into India since last week to escape intense fighting between the rebels and the Myanmar army. This includes around 47 Myanmar army officers who crossed the international border and surrendered to state police in India’s border state of Mizoram, Mizoram shares a 510 km long border with the Chinese state of Myanmar. The army personnel were later taken to the border town of Moreh in Manipur, where they were handed over to Myanmar military officials.
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