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Myanmar crisis: Armed resistance tests junta’s grip

Three years after seizing control, Myanmar’s junta is still struggling to control the country. Over 4,400 people have been killed, and over 25,000 people arrested

Myanmar crisis: Armed resistance tests junta’s grip

Representative image

By Tommy Walker

NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar has been in chaos ever since General Min Aung Hlaing and his military forces overthrew the democratically elected government on February 1, 2021. The coup sparked an armed conflict between the civilian-led National Unity Government, people’s defense forces and ethnic armed groups.

On the eve of the coup anniversary, the junta extended by six months the state of emergency it declared on February 1, 2021. Three years after seizing control, Myanmar’s junta is still struggling to control the country. Over 4,400 people have been killed, and over 25,000 people arrested since the military seized power, according to rights groups.

The resultant crisis has also seen Myanmar’s economy heavily decline and is now 10% lower than it was in 2019, according to a report by the World Bank. Although life in urban areas appears to be somewhat normal, the rest of Myanmar is in disorder, according to Aung Thu Nyein, a political analyst from Myanmar. “It’s so bad in the countryside, we don’t have proper electricity and agricultural production is also down,” Aung told DW.

“Because of instability and difficult to predict what will happen next, a lot of businesses are stopping their activities,” he added. The United Nations said the number of displaced people in Myanmar since the coup has exceeded two million. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Thursday for an end to violence in Myanmar and a return to democracy.

Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the restoration of civilian rule, accountability of the military, and the release of political prisoners. “Amid all the crises around the world, it is important no-one is forgotten. The people of Myanmar have been suffering for too long,” he said in an online statement. Earlier this week, the military government extended Myanmar’s state of emergency again by another six months, a regular occurrence since the coup. But not enough has been done, either politically or diplomatically to stop the war, said Sai Latt, a political analyst covering Myanmar’s revolutionary movements and region relations. Diplomatic efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to resolve the conflict have proved ineffective, with little progress being made since the 10-member bloc agreed on a five-point peace plan — which Myanmar signed up to but has failed to implement. Sai told DW that Min Aung Hlaing has no will for any political solution. “He urged political parties to form people’s militia for community security and defense instead of asking them to help find political solutions — an indication that a peaceful political solution is not on his agenda,” said Sai.

“Resistance groups are committed to continue the fighting until SAC is removed, as a result, the conflict will continue in 2024 and beyond,” added Sai, referring to the Myanmar military government, which calls itself the State Administration Council (SAC).

The SAC has often resorted to using devastating air strikes and scorch earth tactics to pummel resistance groups. But the tide has turned somewhat in recent months.

Myanmar’s opposition forces have made significant inroads, capturing territory in the country’s northern Shan state in a three-pronged united brotherhood alliance, leaving the junta reeling. The sweeping “Operation 1027” offensive over the span of three months saw dozens of townships and hundreds of junta-held military bases captured. Anthony Davis, a Myanmar security expert, said the Shan state offensive hit the junta hard. “The junta has neither the manpower reserves nor organisational capacity to mount major counter-offensives anywhere in Myanmar.”

DW Bureau
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