- Three Brotherhood Alliance launched a military offensive on October 27
- Myanmar’s junta lost 132 out of the country’s 330 towns
- Alliance mobilizes 20,000 troops for Operation 1027
Amid the ongoing civil war, Myanmar is currently facing a multifaceted crisis that includes political unrest, economic challenges, violations of human rights, and a severe humanitarian crisis. The country’s political situation deteriorated drastically since the military ousted a government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 2021 coup, ending a decade of tentative democratic reform and triggering widespread protests.
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The country has been in turmoil since the military coup. In various parts of the country, democracy activists have taken up arms alongside ethnic minority insurgents who have been battling for self-determination for decades.
Overview of Myanmar’s Armed Groups
Opposing the military rule, the Three Brotherhood Alliance – a coalition of three ethnic armed groups: the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) – launched a joint military offensive on October 27 last, Operation 1027, which is still ongoing.
The Three Brotherhood Alliance attacked and seized regime bases and towns throughout the northern states of Shan, Kachin, and Rakhine, as well as the upper regions of Sagaing and Mandalay.
Mobilizing an estimated 20,000 troops for Operation 1027, the coalition has orchestrated a series of attacks on military camps in various towns including Lashio, Laukkai, Namhkam, Naung Cho, Muse, and Kyaukme. Even before the initiation of this operation, the State Administration Council had already admitted to losing control over 132 out of the country’s 330 townships. Martial law had been imposed in 44 townships spanning nine states and regions.
Myint Swe, the acting president of Myanmar, has warned that the country faces the risk of fragmentation if the crisis in the border region is not effectively addressed. He has urged the public to rally behind the government’s initiatives aimed at restoring order. Political analysts assume that a hidden goal of Operation 1027 is to intentionally divide Myanmar and diminish the military’s hold on power.
During their operations, the Three Brotherhood Alliance has reportedly acquired a significant arsenal of weapons and ammunition from the Myanmar Armed Forces. Social media photos have shown bodies of security force personnel, and captured soldiers.
Myanmar is home to over 20 ethnic rebel groups that have been engaged in longstanding conflicts with both each other and the national military. These confrontations have persisted for decades, driven by their aspirations for autonomy and competition for authority over the profitable drug trade and natural resources situated in the country’s border regions, which serve as crucial funding sources for these armed movements.
Besides the Three Brotherhood Alliance, other prominent armed groups in Myanmar include Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, Chin National Defense Force, Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Defense Organization, Karen National Liberation Army, Kuki National Army, Mon National Liberation Army, National Socialist Council of Nagaland, People’s Defense Force, People’s Revolution Alliance (Magway), Rohingya Solidarity Organization, United Wa State Army, and Zomi Revolutionary Army.
All these ethnic armed organizations are involved in armed conflict against the Myanmar government in Kachin, Chin, Kayin, Shan, Rakhine, and Kayah states of Myanmar as well as in Magway Region, Sagaing Region and Tanintharyi Region.
Role of Superpowers
Despite the Myanmar military’s actions contradicting India’s interests, New Delhi has continued to maintain friendly relations with its neighboring nation. Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Vinay Kumar recently held talks with Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin in Naypyitaw. The discussions covered various aspects of bilateral relations and explored potential avenues for collaboration. Although India has expressed support for democratic reforms in Myanmar following last year’s coup, its actions appear to be accommodating the military junta’s rule.
China’s response to the crisis in Myanmar involves a combination of military and diplomatic strategies. While openly endorsing Myanmar’s government forces, China has also strategically fostered connections with some of the nation’s influential ethnic armed organizations (EAOs). This delicate balance enables China to enhance its influence in Myanmar.
As Myanmar enters its third year of civil unrest following the 2021 military coup, China has strengthened its diplomatic involvement with the country. This includes initiating peace talks with northern Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), orchestrating business delegations to revive the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), and hosting high-level People’s Liberation Army (PLA) delegations in Naypyitaw. These actions suggest that China has injected fresh momentum into a relationship that had been largely stagnant since Myanmar’s coup.
The United States and Western countries have employed a multifaceted strategy in response to the crisis in Myanmar. Besides reducing aid, the US has imposed sanctions, and export bans on Myanmar in an attempt to overturn the military coup. The US Congress has empowered the government to impose sanctions, if needed, on senior officials in Myanmar’s military and state-owned commercial enterprises. However, the effectiveness of these sanctions might be limited as the Myanmar military has an extensive track record of resisting international pressure.
The United Nations Security Council hastily assembled for an emergency meeting right after the 2021 coup. During this session, a resolution was put to vote, advocating for the “restoration of democracy” in Myanmar. The resolution condemned the actions of the Myanmar military and urged the release of detainees.
Consequently, the current geopolitical landscape has led to a scenario where Myanmar’s valuable resources and strategic position are viewed as a prize to be divided among major global powers like the Western nations, China, and India. Each of these powers has distinct interests in Myanmar, intensifying their competition for influence within the nation. This rivalry has further complicated efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar.
Potential threats on the horizon
Situated along Myanmar’s southwestern border, Bangladesh must maintain a heightened level of security vigilance due to the continuing crisis in Myanmar. The country faces security threats arising from the turmoil in Myanmar. It would not only present a serious security issue but also prompt a significant refugee crisis in the CHT region.
Another threat looms over Bangladesh’s coastal region, where clashes between Rakhine rebels and government forces have the potential to escalate the already precarious situation in the Cox’s Bazar area, currently grappling with the influx of Rohingya refugees. The heightened crisis can endanger the entire Chattogram region, which serves as the economic hub for Bangladesh’s trade and commerce.
In summary, the Myanmar crisis presents a substantial threat to Bangladesh’s national security. The influx of refugees, the spillover of violence, and the potential for regional instability all contribute to the urgency of addressing this issue.