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Myanmar's China-backed insurgents begin 'coordinated strikes' at army posts

By Ibrahim Khalil Ahasan* 

On January 31, 1949, the Karen National Union launched a revolt that marked the start of the war in Myanmar. Following 112 days of combat, the Myanmar Army routed the Karen National Defence Organisation in May 1949 and retook control of Yangon. The Karens are still engaged in this battle since it was their attempt to equalise possibilities with the Bhamars.
Temporary ceasefire agreements were struck in the states of Kachin, Kayah, Mon, and Shan throughout the 1990s; yet, during that same period, twenty other armed ethnic groupings emerged. These gangs persisted in their conflict even after the cease-fire that lasted from the 1990s until 2010. Amidst persistent war and Western sanctions, peace negotiations between Myanmar's military government and ethnic armed groups (EAOs) persisted.
In honour of the multilateral ceasefire on the agreement's ninth anniversary, the military administration welcomed leaders of ethnic rebel factions on October 15. This was the first official meeting between representatives of ethnic minorities and the military administration since the military overthrew the democratic government on February 1, 2021.
The All-Myanmar Students' Democratic Front, the China National Front, and the Karen National Union are among the groups opposed to the present military-backed government. The three signatories abstained from the occasion. They said in unison that they would not participate in the peace negotiations unless the government put an end to the current bloodshed.
These three factions are united with the pro-democracy People's Defence Force (PDF) and are engaged in a military-led violent conflict to bring about democracy. Internal armed violence has plagued Myanmar for over 70 years since its independence and continues to this day.
In October 2015, eight ethnic armed groups signed the NCA; two additional rebel groups joined the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2018, making ten ethnic armed groups in total. The long-running insurgency against the government of Myanmar was put an end to with the deal.
Four broad agreements were reached during the three rounds of peace negotiations that the military administration had with ten EAOs between May 2022 and February 2023 after taking office. Between February 2021 and September 2023, 121 peace discussions were place as part of this process.
The armed groups representing three ethnic minority groups, the Tang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) formed the Brotherhood Alliance and jointly attacked the junta forces in late October 2023.
The Sino-Myanmar commerce centre, the Chinese border town of Shwe Hao, was taken over by the Brotherhood Alliance via a coordinated operation. The Brotherhood Alliance took control of a crucial border crossing and closed two significant trade routes to China.
Five places across three townships in Rakhine were assaulted by the AA in November, breaking an unofficial truce that had been in effect since 2022. A Brotherhood Alliance member, AA, took control of many military outposts in the mid-Rathedung and Minbya districts of Rakhine. In the AA assault, forty positions were lost by the police and junta troops.
Two military installations in the bordering Chinese state of Myanmar were assaulted by insurgents. On November 12, the Chinese National Front (CNF) overran the junta-controlled Indian border town of Reh Khao Dah in Phalam Township. The town is situated on India's primary commerce route in North China State.
In the eastern Kayah state, close to the Thai border, the Brotherhood Alliance is engaged in combat with the army outside the capital. A rebel alliance of the PDF took control of the city of Kaolin in the Sagaing Region on November 3. The Brotherhood Alliance attacked Kampat in the Tamu District of Sagaing on November 7. The Karenni resistance troops in Kayah (Karenyi) state are still fighting for control of Loikao, where they occupy around nine seats in the junta.
The EAOs have been a source of difficulty for the Myanmar military for many years. They have never encountered such a circumstance. Western pressure on Myanmar has persisted ever since the country's military government took over. Despite the many methods in which China, Russia, and India have helped Myanmar, their trade and economies have been impacted by this scenario.
The impact of devaluation and inflation on people's lives has resulted in a decline in public support for the administration. The success of Operation 1027 is widely attributed to China's backing, with many observers speculating that the Myanmar Act had some impact in enabling this well-planned strike. In any event, the Brotherhood Alliance's capabilities in this conflict has been strengthened by the backing of Myanmar's pro-democracy populace, especially the overwhelming Bhamar community.
The situation has deteriorated due to the country's core Bhamars' declining support for the army and the youth's unwillingness to enlist in the majority Bhamar army. For the young of Tarun Bhamar, the end of years of military rule and the election of a democratic administration brought some optimism. Following its extinction in February 2021, many of them turned into rebels and joined the armed resistance.
For many years, the military in Myanmar has benefited greatly from the assistance of Buddhist monks in terms of both morale and capability. Many common people have also stopped supporting the military due to divisions among the Buddhist monk community and the decline in support for the military on a unilateral basis.
Not every monk in Myanmar is in favour of military control. Nowadays, a large number of individuals congregate at Buddhist monasteries during anti-army demonstrations, and many of them later join armed resistance organisations. Many prominent monks think that if the monks had contributed to Rakhine's development without promoting excessive nationalism and animosity, people's quality of living would have increased and the nation would have been at peace.
Considering current state of affairs, it is premature to make predictions about Myanmar's future
In the current environment, monks have organised alongside students as the All-Myanmar Young Monks Union and have been protesting, creating their own nonviolent resistance, and taking part in resistance in the forests that border Myanmar.
Because of the absence of agreement, mutual respect, and cohesion among the armed groups engaged in combat with the army, the armed groups have been unable to act as a unit until now. They are now engaged in multifaceted combat with the army.
The military authorities in Myanmar are very uneasy due to the extent of the continuous violent opposition. There are rumours that the army is having trouble recruiting and has poor morale. Entire regiments have chosen to surrender or run in previous fights. Armed groups recently carried out coordinated strikes on army posts across many locations, resulting in significant casualties. In Myanmar's history, this is the first instance of such cooperation amongst local guerilla factions.
The army has escalated its airstrikes in this concerted onslaught, but it has not been able to gain an advantage in the ground conflict. As a consequence, both the number of fatalities and displaced persons is rising. As word of this fast travels via the media to the outside world, pressure from other countries on the junta government is also growing.
The Myanmar military is trying hard to guard Naypyidaw, the nation's capital, as the insurgents seize more and more territory. This is straining the army's manpower to battle the militants, as soldiers would need to be brought in from other regions of the nation. The almost two years of widespread violence in the country has resulted in an increasing number of army fatalities. The army's capabilities has been impacted by its inability to meet quotas and recruit soldiers on time.
Meanwhile, three Chinese naval ships landed in Yangon's Thilawa port to participate in joint drills with the Myanmar navy amidst the continuing unrest in that country. The task force of the Chinese Navy arrived, around seven hundred sailors. A three-day joint military drill between the armed forces of Russia and Myanmar was held earlier in the Andaman Sea.
About 800 sailors and three Russian warships participated in the drill, which was held close to Meik township in the southern Tanintharyi area of Myanmar. China and Russia have shown their support for Myanmar despite the dreadful circumstances there, and their interest in the area is evident by their naval presence in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
The military of Myanmar, which has decades of expertise combating armed groups, is continues to be supported by China and Russia. It would never be appropriate to assume that, given the circumstances, they would rapidly lose ability. It seems sense that the Myanmar army will attempt to solve the present issue by switching up its approach and committing all of its soldiers.
Considering the current state of affairs, it is premature to make any predictions about Myanmar's future. Nonetheless, the Myanmar Army has never seen a circumstance like this before. What remains to be seen is how they handle it.
---
*Dhaka-based independent columnist and freelance journalist

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