Myanmar

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Myanmar Military Junta: Sinking Within

The piercing sound of air raids, mortar shelling, and gunfire on our southern border not only violates our territorial integrity and sovereignty but also presents a gloomy image of an uncertain future for the people of Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the

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Myanmar Military Junta: Sinking Within

312 views
5 mins read

The piercing sound of air raids, mortar shelling, and gunfire on our southern border not only violates our territorial integrity and sovereignty but also presents a gloomy image of an uncertain future for the people of Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the entire region.

The sound of gunshots also serves as a metaphor for the Myanmar Junta’s struggles and failures in establishing control over its own nation. The present violence in Myanmar has all the characteristics of a civil war.

Burma (Myanmar) is already engulfed in a civil war. Organized opposition groups, credible challenges to state authority, ground presence, alternative governance infrastructure (usually), and external recognition are often necessary for civil conflicts. All those components exist in Burma. The opposition is not organized along ethnic lines. They have had success in battling the security forces and Burmese army.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy was democratically elected to power in Myanmar, but that government was overthrown last year, and the military took its place. The recent trend of increased fighting and violence in Myanmar is evidence of growing unrest against the military establishment (NDL).

Following the military takeover, a sizable pro-democracy movement emerged, which later evolved into armed resistance in response to the Junta’s violent assault on dissent, which claimed the lives of at least 2,300 civilians throughout Myanmar.

People’s Defence Force (PDF), an anti-coup resistance force, has been in charge of a widespread armed resistance campaign since the coup. The National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow government in exile run by Suu Kyi’s NLD’s expelled MPs, served as the foundation for PDF.

Frequently armed only with handmade weapons and a thorough understanding of the terrain, PDF has managed to astound the military with its capabilities.

To put an end to the resistance movement, the Junta in reaction conducted indiscriminate airstrikes, shelling, and arson attacks against cities and villages.

The Junta’s support among the populace has been eroded by this indiscriminate violence against the civilian population, which has brought the nation dangerously close to civil war as more civilians take up guns to oppose the military regime.

The failure of the Junta military to take control of the country is due to the lack of popular support brought on by the indiscriminate violence against the country’s population, the Myanmar military’s lack of professionalism, and corruption at every level of its military leadership and law enforcement agencies.
Ethnic Armed Forces Organizations (EAOs), also known as powerful ethnic armed organizations, have formed coalitions to combat the Junta on the battlefield as a result of the Junta’s failings. There are some of them that have friendly ties to the military establishment.

In light of recent developments, the heads of Myanmar’s seven most potent ethnic armed groups, including the Arakan Army, recently met in the remote WA area bordering China to strengthen their alliance.

Some of these EAOs have actively given military training and other types of support to anti-coup resistance, even if they are not actively engaged in the campaign to topple the Junta regime in Myanmar, which is the PDF’s main goal.

The crisis in Myanmar has already served as a flashpoint for major world powers, just like every other contemporary conflict throughout the globe.

A semi-proxy battle has already developed in this conflict. China firmly supports the Burmese government. While western nations have denounced Burmese activities, supported the opposition diplomatically and helped them make their voices heard.

Myanmar has been attempting to take advantage of the west’s diversion in attention away from this region due to the conflict in Ukraine to annihilate its rivals on the battlefield.

The Junta has been looking for supporters domestically and abroad as part of its so-called “counter-terrorism” drive to combat the diplomatic isolation the west imposed on the country last year.

Last June, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution urging nations to stop arming Myanmar.

However, the call was ignored. China, Russia, and Serbia are now Burma’s top three weaponry suppliers.
Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, criticized Russia and China for continuing to supply the Junta with weapons despite “proof of the horrific crimes being committed with impunity” since launching a coup last year in his report released in February. However, Russia is still selling the Junta military equipment, and as part of a 2018 contract, it will soon send brand-new Sukhoi SU-30SM jet fighters.

Due to an uptick in violence, conditions in Myanmar have recently gotten worse for a great number of innocent people.

This brutal crackdown has unleashed a major refugee crisis forcing tens of thousands of people from almost every region to flee the country.

Since the coup, at least 1.3 million people have been forcibly evacuated in an effort to flee military attacks, he claimed, adding that the effects of this refugee flow would be felt throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

The largest increase in the number of refugees arrived in the Indian state of Mizoram. Since the military overthrew the government in 2021, about 30,000 people from Myanmar have sought refuge in Mizoram, according to Hindustan Times.

Bangladesh is also seeing a small influx of refugees despite intensive monitoring and surveillance in border regions. A minimum of 10-15 Rohingyas have sought refuge in the Kutupalong and Balukhali shelter camps in Cox’s Bazar since September 10 as a result of the resumption of hostilities between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army in Rakhine.

The “spectre of violence” in Myanmar has started to compellASEAN members to take action against Myanmar. This is a very significant development.

Bangladesh and Thailand have both been patient and cautious in their response (to airspace violation and artillery shelling), but if conflict persists and such violations become routine, Burmese provocations will in the future be responded to and that might create region-wide instability and chaos.

The Indo-Pacific region’s stability is threatened by the recent flare-up of fighting in Myanmar, which has alarmed neighbouring nations. The continuous insecurity and instability in Rakhine state have produced a spillover impact across the region.

Everyone worries that terrorist groups like IS and al-Qaeda may exploit the deteriorating situation in Rakhine state if the situation there is not adequately addressed. The world must emphasize the necessity of taking action on a global scale to address the security risk brought on by the unrest in Myanmar.
Bangladesh and Myanmar share a turbulent, almost 300-kilometer border, which has the potential to have negative repercussions on both countries.

For more than a month, tensions have been rising between Dhaka and Naypyidaw. On the Bangladesh side of the border, numerous instances of Myanmar’s brutal army airspace violations, deadly shelling, and gunfire have been documented.

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry summoned Myanmar’s Ambassador in Dhaka, Aung Kyaw Moe, to express opposition to the provocation following a recent incidence of mortar fire in Bangladesh that resulted in the death of an 18-year-old Rohingya boy in the no-land man’s near Bandarban.

Bangladesh must support the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Gambia, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and other international organizations leading the efforts to hold the Myanmar military accountable for their actions against the Rohingya people in order to ensure the sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya refugees. Bangladesh needs to take the right actions to raise the Rohingya people’s voices and their grievances to the world community. Regional countries’ targets should be strict against the brutal Myanmar military. The world including regional countries must realize that the Rohingya issue is likely to remain stuck until the Myanmar junta is kicked out of power – and this could take a long time.

Intensifying Conflict in Myanmar

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The violent rebellion by multiple local forces known as the People’s Defence Forces (PDF) supported by select Ethnic Armed Organisation (EAO) has drawn much attention in Myanmar. The response of the Myanmar Armed Forces or Tatmadaw has been brutal which has led to a very strong backlash from the regional and international community, particularly the ASEAN grouping.

Towards this end the State Administrative Council (SAC) or the cloak of the Tatmadaw post the military coup is trying to come up with an act of political balancing. Given the state of violence and the need for extending legitimacy, the military-led “government,” announced an extension of a state of emergency for another six months until Feb. 1, 2023, with a plan of holding elections.

Head of the SAC and Chief of Tatmadaw, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the military’s role in politics was necessary for sake of peace and stability in an explanation in front of a meeting of military personnel in July. This statement denotes that the military will continue to have a large political role while the aim of the SAC will be to undermine the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader Aung Suu Kyi who have emerged as the most popular forces in the country. Towards this end, a very systematic campaign has been launched to target NLD leaders, particularly Aung San Suu Kyi and disqualify her. Here is a short review of these developments.

Justifying State Administrative Council Sustenance

To justify the military coup on February 01, last year, the SAC chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is planning to hold a general election next year, after cancelling the results of the 2020 poll which the NLD won in a landslide. NLD is likely to be excluded from the 2023 election, should it happen as planned. 

The reorganised Union Election Commission (UEC) is now preparing for polls in August 2023 an activity which is focused on ensuring that military-supported parties are elected to power. Newly appointed UEC chairman U Thein Soe who will oversee the upcoming poll is a former Myanmar military general.

A proportional representation (PR) system is being planned, though the Constitutional Tribunal has ruled that it does not comply with the 2008 Constitution. Min Aung Hlaing is looking at imposing the PR system for the next election as he believes that in a First Past the Post (FPTP) system the NLD won landslide victories. Min Aung Hlaing hopes that this will assist the military’s proxy political force the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

USDP is already preparing for elections and has held a central executive committee meeting at its headquarters in the capital Naypyitaw and a party conference when a new party leadership will be elected for the next five years. With Min Aung Hlaing eyeing the presidency, a position he has long coveted, USDP leaders might also be looking at the prospects of being appointed to other top political positions such as the vice-presidency, parliamentary speaker, and Union ministers. Keeping the NLD out of elections appears to be the main strategy and the way this is being done is covered in the next section.

Keeping NLD out of Elections and Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s military government has been working to suppress dissent since its inception. The NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi was the first target. As per a report in Myanmar Now, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded a five-year prison sentence on April 26 allegedly for receiving bribes of cash and gold from Yangon’s former chief minister.

This is the sixth charge which has brought her total sentence so far to 11 years. Later, in June, SAC confirmed the junta moved Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from detention at an unknown location to prison. She was reported to have been provided three female attendants, other details have not been released.

In a message from confinement, Aung San Suu Kyi urged the Myanmar public to discuss and overcome differences through a source close to the court during a hearing in Naypyitaw. Aung Suu Kyi has asked the people to stay united. She also denied electoral fraud charges at a closed trial inside Naypyitaw Prison. In the month of May, NLD issued a statement confirming that it has not assigned any representatives to meet with the junta or affiliated organisations. This may in turn assist the plans of the military to keep the NLD out of power. Following death threats and deadly attacks against them by a pro-regime vigilante group, members of NLD and their families have been forced into hiding or have fled the country for their safety.

Death Sentence

SAC executed two top political dissidents in July—Ko Jimmy, 52, a veteran of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, and Phyo Zayar Thaw, 41, a former National League for Democracy (NLD) MP—and two others, the first capital punishment carried out in decades ostensibly to send a strong message to other dissidents and rebels.

This invited heavy international reproof including by the United Nations. This may dissuade the military from more executions soon. To assuage the public sentiment within, Myanmar’s military government released more than 1,600 prisoners to mark the traditional new year holiday, but they didn’t include any political detainees in the month of April.

The Future

Plans of the military-led SAC to hold elections may become unstuck given the large-scale violence that is ongoing in the country. Moreover in case of non-participation of the NLD, in which case the USDP is likely to gain the maximum number of seats, legitimacy internal and external of the government in Nay Pyi Taw will be limited.  Perhaps knowing this recently, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has proposed holding talks with the NLD but only after the trials of Aung Suu Kyi are over. If this course is pursued seriously and Suu Kyi shows a willingness to talk with the junta-led SAC, there could be some compromise. But even Suu Kyi is expected to have limitations in capping the violent resistance that has emerged in the wake of the military coup last February. Thus, the political trajectory in Myanmar spells instability soon.