A major offensive against Myanmar’s military-run government by an alliance of three armed groups of ethnic minorities in the northeast has been moving at lightning speed, inspiring resistance forces around the country to launch new attacks.
With Myanmar’s military falling back on almost every front, hope is rising among coup opponents that this could be a turning point in the struggle to oust the army leaders who toppled democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi almost three years ago.
"The current operation is a great opportunity to change the political situation in Myanmar," said Le Kyar Win, spokesperson for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, or MNDAA, one of the three armed groups known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance that launched the offensive on October 27.
Caught by surprise by the attack dubbed Operation 1027, the military has lost more than 180 outposts and strongpoints, including four major bases and four economically important border crossings with China.
Nearly 335,000 civilians have been displaced by the current fighting, bringing the total to more than 2 million displaced nationwide, according to the United Nations.
"For the regime, this is by far the most difficult moment it’s faced since the early days of the coup," said Richard Horsey, the International Crisis Group’s Myanmar expert.
China’s tacit support
Complicating matters for the military is China’s apparent tacit support for the Three Brotherhood Alliance, stemming, at least partially, from Beijing’s growing irritation at the burgeoning drug trade along its border and the proliferation of centres in Myanmar from which cyber scams are run, frequently by Chinese organised crime cartels with workers trafficked from China or elsewhere in the region.
As Operation 1027 has gained ground, thousands of Chinese nationals involved in such operations have been repatriated into police custody in China, giving Beijing little reason to exert pressure on the Brotherhood to stop fighting.
"If they really wanted the ceasefire, they do have the leverage to enforce one or get pretty far toward enforcing one," Horsey said.
"They haven’t done that, so that’s telling."
The military, known as the Tatmadaw, remains far bigger and better trained than the resistance forces and has armour, airpower and even naval assets to fight the lightly armed groups organised by various ethnic minority groups.
But with its unexpectedly quick and widespread losses and overstretched forces, morale is sagging with more troops surrendering and defecting, giving rise to a wary optimism among its diverse opponents. The February 1, 2021, seizure of power by army commander Senior General Min Aung Hlaing brought thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators to the streets of Myanmar’s cities.
"I would say the revolution has reached the next level," said Nay Phone Latt, a spokesperson for the National Unity Government, the leading opposition organisation.
Military leaders responded with brutal crackdowns and have arrested more than 25,000 people and killed more than 4,200 as of Friday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Its violent tactics gave rise to People’s Defense Forces, or PDFs — armed resistance forces that support the National Unity Government, many of which were trained by the ethnic armed organisations the military has fought in the country’s border regions for years.
But resistance was fragmented until Operation 1027, when three of the country’s most powerful armed ethnic groups, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in northeastern Shan state, and the Arakan Army in western Rakhine state, assembled a force of some 10,000 fighters, according to expert estimates, and rapidly overran military positions.
Source: TRT World
BDST: 1000 HRS, DEC 01, 2023