ASIA/MYANMAR - After the “Brotherhood Alliance” offensive against military dictatorship, the Country is on the brink of collapse

Thursday, 23 November 2023 civil war   democracy   ethnic minorities licenza Creative Commons

Yangon (Agenzia Fides) - The military junta in Myanmar is facing attacks on several fronts in the border areas after an alliance of ethnic minority rebel groups joined forces with pro-democracy fighters who are trying to take over the entire country. The so-called "Operation 1027", launched on October 27 by the alliance of ethnic militias - with the support of the "People's Defense Forces" formed after the February 2021 coup - has already carried out coordinated attacks against military positions in Shan State (in the north of the country, on the border with China) and took several cities. The alliance, called the Brotherhood Alliance, is a coalition of the Kokang Myanmar Democratic Alliance Army (Mndaa), the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (Tnla) and the Arakan Army (Aa), which is leading the offensive and stated unequivocally that its goal was to "protect the lives of civilians, assert the right to self-defense, respond decisively to the junta's ongoing artillery and air strikes" and "eliminate the oppressive military dictatorship." The new offensive represents the biggest military challenge for the junta government, which has expanded its forces and attacks on multiple fronts. The alliance, made up of three groups with extensive combat experience, has been joined by members of the so-called People's Defense Forces, a grassroots movement supported by the "Myanmar National Unity Government" (NUG), which is abroad, loyal to democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Coordination between all groups opposing the military junta has intensified the confrontation: the alliance now claims to already control 70% of the national territory, while the army is entrenched in the central part of the country and the largest and most important cities (Yangon , Mandalay, Naipidaw). The attack in Shan State was followed by the opening of other battle fronts: one in Rakhine State to the west, despite the ceasefire agreed a year ago; another in Chin State on the border with India and in Kayah State on the border with Thailand. Heavy clashes, observers told Fides, are also recorded in Loikaw, capital of Kayah state, a city where airstrikes and constant bombardments have been taking place for over ten days. Citizens have fled or hid in the basements, and refugee families are even being housed in the Catholic cathedral. Meanwhile, the powerful Burmese army is also making its first defections: On November 16, an entire battalion stationed near the Chinese border surrendered to the alliance of armed ethnic groups. The surrender of 261 personnel (127 soldiers and 134 non-combatants) from the infantry battalion in Shan State is the largest surrender by the regular forces since the start of the conflict. Meanwhile, the People's Defense Forces are encouraging the armed opposition among the population to recognize the vulnerability of the army in the various regions: by driving out convoys and military groups, opposition militiamen often come into possession of small arms, ammunition, machine guns and even armored vehicles. Attempts are also being made to encourage desertion and to convince young soldiers to switch to the side of the insurgents and the people. Meanwhile, "Operation 1027" was cheered across Myanmar and widely followed on social media, questioning the army's narrative of its supposed invincibility. General Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the military junta, was forced to publicly admit the difficulties and defeats, declaring that "the country is in danger of disintegrating." Analysts say Myanmar's generals have proven they can combine battlefield power with "divide et impera" strategies to control rebellions in border areas. However, "Operation 1027" also dealt a serious blow to a well-equipped army with decades of counterinsurgency experience. While the army still has superior military strength and resources, including aircraft and artillery, and could therefore launch a counteroffensive, governance has become extremely unpopular. The Burmese population - in all its ethnic components, both the main Bamar group and all minorities - is distressed by the ongoing humanitarian crisis that the Burmese armed forces have unleashed in an attempt to break civilian resistance. The military has cut off access to food, communications, transport and finances, in order to drive the population to the brink in blatant violation of human rights. Faced with this violence, civilians often seek shelter in religious institutions and facilities such as Catholic centers or Buddhist monasteries. The destabilization of the country has increased the already large number of internally displaced people: more than 286,000 people were displaced by the fighting last month, according to Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. In total, during the two years of civil war, there are approximately 2.5 million internally displaced people across the country who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, but it is not being provided. The phenomenon also increasingly threatens to involve neighboring countries such as India, Thailand and China, which fear a possible refugee crisis as many refugees are already crossing borders to seek safety and escape the conflict. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/11/2023)