Myanmar/Burma January 2023-

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January 2020-2023
The Guardian view on Myanmar’s military:
in power but not in control

Could Myanmar Come Apart?
As the Rebels Gain Ground and the Junta Reels, the Country’s Future Is in Doubt
By Avinash Paliwal
(Foreign Affairs) Since a military coup in 2021 toppled Myanmar’s democratic government, the country’s army has found itself contending with a tenacious and committed rebel insurgency. The military junta’s opponents are varied and various, including armed organizations representing Myanmar’s many ethnic minorities and militias loyal to the ousted government. Many observers had written off such resistance groups as too fractious and weak to present a genuine challenge to the junta. But that all has changed in recent months. Rebels have been strikingly successful in an offensive against the junta in the northern Shan State—which borders China—called Operation 1027, named for the day it started, October 27, 2023. The offensive has been led by a coalition of ethnic armies called the Three Brotherhood Alliance, made up of the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

12 January
Myanmar junta and armed rebels agree ceasefire
China mediates truce that would halt months of conflict that has displaced half a million people in country’s north
(AFP) Myanmar’s military and an alliance of armed ethnic minority groups have announced a China-mediated ceasefire after months of conflict that has posed the biggest threat to the junta since it seized power in 2021.
Fighting has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced more than half a million people since October, when the alliance launched an offensive against the junta.
The alliance has seized several towns and border hubs in Myanmar’s northern Shan state that are vital for trade with China, a major arms supplier and ally of the military.


21 December
On the new front line of Myanmar’s civil war
Nearly three years after a military coup, resistance fighters are gaining ground.
Almost three years since the military seized power in a coup, ending a brief stretch of semi-democratic rule in the former British colony and plunging Myanmar once again into civil war, the fight for Loikaw – the capital of Karenni State – was one of the bloodiest the Karenni forces had seen. They lost at least 60 fighters in the assault, compared to around 200 in all the fighting prior.
But by mid-December they’d seized control of Loikaw, striking a major blow against the military junta. The ruling regime has been on the back foot nationwide after an alliance of northern ethnic militias that had previously sat out the war launched a surprise attack on Oct. 27.
Unprecedented co-operation between the shadow National Unity Government of pro-democracy politicians and ethnic armed groups is posing the biggest threat yet to the military dictatorship.
6 December
Myanmar’s junta may be on the verge of ‘collapse’
Analysis by Ishaan Tharoor
(WaPo) For close to three years, Myanmar’s junta has held down the fort. It interrupted the country’s fledgling, imperfect exercise in democracy with its Feb. 1, 2021, coup that threw out a civilian-led government and saw the detention of myriad elected leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. It withstood the popular pro-democracy uprising that followed, gunning down nonviolent protesters and jailing activists, artists and other dissidents. It shrugged off international censure and opprobrium, long-accustomed to operating on the world stage as a pariah. And it settled in for a multi-front civil war against an array of rebel outfits, from ragtag revolutionaries to the entrenched and well-equipped ethnic armies that have operated for decades in the country’s restive highlands.
For a time, the junta seemed to be keeping threats to its primacy at bay. It adopted brutal tactics, including the indiscriminate bombing of villages full of civilians, that helped contribute to nearly 2 million people being displaced. But it seems the generals are now reeling in the face of an organized offensive by a coalition of rebel factions that’s inspired fresh campaigns by other groups, all of whom sense the tide of battle turning.

28 November
Myanmar’s junta is losing. The U.S. should prepare for its collapse.
(WaPo Editorial Board) Nearly three years after Myanmar’s military staged a coup against a democratically elected government and plunged the country into a civil war, the tide appears to be turning — and, fortunately, not in favor of the ruling generals. The world needs to start thinking about what would follow a regime collapse, even if one is still a long way off. That means talking to the country’s only legitimate pro-democracy force, the National Unity Government.
Well-armed ethnic insurgent groups have made substantial gains against the military across the country. The latest offensive began Oct. 27, when rebel groups in Myanmar’s Shan state succeeded in overrunning several townships, military outposts and border crossings with China. Separate ethnic insurgents have made similar gains in the Sagaing region in the northeast, in Chin and Rakhine states.

10 September
The Myanmar crisis shows ASEAN’s irrelevance
(WaPo editorial board) On Wednesday, a photojournalist in Myanmar named Sai Zaw Thaike was sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labor, for the “crime” of taking pictures to document the aftermath of a deadly cyclone earlier this year. He was accused by the country’s brutal ruling military junta of incitement, sedition and spreading misinformation, and sentenced after a secret proceeding and with no legal representation.
The sentence, believed to be one of the longest meted out to a journalist in the country, cements Myanmar’s reputation as one of the world’s most profligate human rights abusers. Since the generals seized power in a February 2021 coup, sparking an ongoing bloody civil war, more than 4,000 people have been killed and an estimated 20,000 have been imprisoned for opposing the military takeover. Dozens of prisoners are missing and believed to have been murdered by the regime. About 50 people were arrested in June simply for posting anti-regime messages on social media.
At the same time Mr. Sai Zaw Thaike was receiving his unjust sentence, the leaders of Myanmar’s neighboring countries were meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, for the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. Myanmar’s leaders, known as the State Administration Council, or SAC, were thankfully not invited. …
What the world got from the Jakarta talkfest was a glaring example of the regional forum’s impotence and increasing irrelevance. Instead of a show of unity, the summit underscored the inability of the nine disparate ASEAN members (not including Myanmar) to come together around a common policy to resolve one of the world’s worst abominations.
The most ASEAN could come up with was a statement yet again condemning the violence and urging “the Myanmar Armed Forces in particular, and all related parties concerned in Myanmar, to de-escalate violence and stop targeted attacks on civilians” and nonmilitary infrastructure.

6 September
Myanmar’s Seat Empty as VP Harris Speaks to ASEAN Leaders
(VoA) A chair with Myanmar’s flag was left empty as Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Southeast Asian leaders during the U.S.-ASEAN, or Association of Southeast Asian Nations, summit in Jakarta hosted by outgoing chair Indonesia.
“The United States will continue to press the regime to end the horrific violence to release all those unjustly detained and to reestablish Myanmar’s path to inclusive democracy,” Harris said at the opening of the summit Wednesday.
.. Last year, ASEAN agreed to bar Myanmar’s ruling generals from meetings until they make progress to address the crisis. An empty Myanmar chair has been held as a symbol to urge the country to return to democracy.

5 September
Myanmar won’t be allowed to lead Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2026, in blow to generals
(AP) — Southeast Asian leaders decided Tuesday that Myanmar won’t take over the rotating leadership of their regional bloc as scheduled in 2026, in the latest blow to efforts by its ruling generals to gain international recognition after violently seizing power in 2021.
An official ASEAN statement issued Tuesday night confirmed the decision to hand the chair to the Philippines in 2026 and affirmed the group’s commitment to a five-point plan for restoring peace and stability in Myanmar.
Marcos did not explain why Myanmar lost the prestigious yearlong ASEAN chairmanship, but two ASEAN diplomats told The Associated Press that it was related to the continuing civil strife in the country and fears that the bloc’s relations with the United States and the European Union, among others, might be undermined because of their non-recognition of the military-led government in Myanmar.
The ASEAN leaders’ statement on Myanmar stressed the desire to work with the generals to end the country’s crisis, especially in the context of the five-point plan which Myanmar accepted in 2021 but has largely failed to implement.

4 August
Myanmar’s military said it bombed ‘terrorists.’ It killed children.
(WaPo) At least 157 people were killed, according to two local groups that have verified the toll over several months. It was the single deadliest attack by the Myanmar military since it seized control from a civilian government in 2021, and a stunning demonstration, analysts said, of how far the junta is willing to go to crush the resistance movement that has pushed it out of large swaths of the country.
… The photos and videos, some not previously made public, are also a rare glimpse into the civil war being waged in Sagaing, part of the ethnic Bamar heartland that has been subject to the junta’s most brutal repression in recent years. Authorities have blocked virtually all international aid, and routinely cut internet and broadband access, leaving communities like Pa Zi Gyi out of contact for long stretches of time.

1-2 August
Aung San Suu Kyi’s partial ‘pardon’ still means 27-year sentence
Rebecca Ratcliffe in Bangkok
Human rights groups say Myanmar military’s move to drop five of ousted leader’s convictions is meaningless
She has been held by the military since it seized power in a coup on 1 February 2021, and has been convicted of 19 offences – from sedition and illegal possession of walkie-talkies, to breaking pandemic rules and electoral fraud.
Aung San Suu Kyi given partial pardon by Myanmar junta
Ousted leader granted clemency on five charges as part of amnesty but faces a further 14 cases

4 June
In the targets of the junta: life and war inside rebel-held Myanmar
On a busy strip in eastern Myanmar, restaurants with bomb shelters serve sizzling plates of beef washed down with Belgian beer and French wine. Teenagers mingle in snooker halls, women relax in beauty salons and revolutionaries get inked in tattoo parlours.
From dawn, steaming bowls of noodle soup are devoured in teashops and, come dusk, shaky bass echoes from a karaoke club. But unlike the country’s heartland, this settlement has one notable absence: military rule.
The Myanmar junta, which seized power in a February 2021 coup, has lost most of Kayah state and some of the southern area of Shan state to an anti-coup resistance. Kayah, the country’s smallest state which runs along the border with Thailand, is covered with verdant hillsides, lush forests and thick jungle, split by the Salween river.
As chunks of the country slip from its grasp, the junta has turned to deadly airstrikes, which have become a near daily occurrence. The military is still more cohesive than its fragmented opposition, but the size of resistance forces are thought to match the 70,000 to 120,000 combat troops of the army.

28 March
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party dissolved
Party refuses to comply with tough new registration law imposed by Myanmar’s military junta
The registration law imposed by the junta requires national parties to fulfil various criteria, including recruiting 100,000 members within 90 days of registration – far more than the previous requirement of 1,000 members. Parties must also open offices in at least half of all 330 townships within 180 days, contest at least half of all constituencies and hold funds of 100m kyat (£40,000).
The 2021 military coup has plunged Myanmar into chaos, with conflict spreading to areas of the country that were once peaceful and military airstrikes occurring on an almost daily basis. Education and health services have collapsed and an estimated 17.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance – up from 1 million before the coup.
More than 17,000 political prisoners remain in detention.

13 February
The civil war in Myanmar: No end in sight
(Brookings) The second anniversary of the February 2021 coup d’état in Myanmar has just passed, and the abysmal state of armed conflict, insurgency, chaos, and anarchy has only been deteriorating. Despite the repeated calls by regional organizations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and by the United Nations to stop the violence, protect human rights, and respect the democratic process, the Burmese military junta has demonstrated no appetite for political concessions or negotiation with the resistance movement. With the uncertainty associated with the postponed general elections this year — which most speculate will be neither free nor fair nor legitimate — the civil war inside Myanmar is likely to only escalate in 2023. There is no end in sight.

1 February
How Myanmar has changed after 2 years under military control — and what lies ahead
By Elaine Kurtenbach
(AP) Two years after Myanmar’s generals ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, thousands of people have died in civil conflict and many more have been forced from their homes in a dire humanitarian crisis.
Myanmar’s economy, once one of the fastest growing in Southeast Asia, now lags behind where it stood before the Feb. 1, 2021, military takeover compounded the country’s struggles with the pandemic.
Ten years earlier, Myanmar had emerged from decades of military rule, gradually transitioning to a civilian government, opening its economy to more foreign investment and entrepreneurship and relaxing censorship of the media. A modern consumer culture took hold, with glitzy shopping malls in the biggest city, Yangon, and use of Facebook and cellphones the new normal
Myanmar junta hit by western sanctions as ‘silent strikes’ mark coup anniversary
The UK, US, Canada and Australia have announced a range of measures aimed at punishing Myanmar’s military
On Wednesday, the anniversary of the coup, images on social media showed empty streets in some of Myanmar’s major cities after activists, who can no longer safely protest in urban areas, called for a “silent strike”. People were encouraged to stay at home and shut their businesses for several hours from 10am to show their opposition to the junta.
Revealed: how world’s biggest fossil fuel firms ‘profited in Myanmar after coup’
Leaked tax records suggest subsidiaries of international gas field contractors continued to make millions after the coup
The Myanmar military seized power in February 2021 and according to the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar, it is “committing war crimes and crimes against humanity daily”. More than 2,940 people, including children, pro-democracy activists and other civilians have been killed, according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Amid this violence, leaked Myanmar tax records and other reports appear to show that US, UK and Irish oil and gas field contractors – which provide essential drilling and other services to Myanamar’s gas field operators – have continued to make millions in profit in the country after the coup.

8 January
Global action is needed to topple Myanmar’s criminal junta boss
Simon Tisdall
From brutal murders and military parades to jailed opponents, Min Aung Hlaing is true to the tyrant’s playbook. The worldwide fight for democracy has to be fought here
(The Guardian) It’s a country where children are imprisoned, tortured and sexually abused. Hundreds have been killed since the military coup two years ago. In total, more than 2,600 people have been murdered and nearly 17,000 detained by a brutal regime led by a genocidal war criminal. In case you’re wondering, this isn’t Ukraine and it isn’t Vladimir Putin.
The criminal in question is Myanmar’s junta boss, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, who struts about in a uniform adorned with meaningless decorations and gaudy gold braid. As a general rule, the more medals a dictator wears, the more absurd and dangerous they are. This killer, this bigoted bomber of villages, schools and hospitals, this displacer of millions, is right up there with the worst of them.
Min Aung Hlaing “celebrated” Myanmar’s 75th independence anniversary from Britain last week with a big military parade silently boycotted by most Burmese. Days earlier, he slapped yet another prison term on Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader he deposed. True to the tyrant’s playbook, the junta plans sham elections this year that will exclude its opponents.
Rohingya refugees bet lives on boat crossings despite rising death toll
Woman recounts suffering on perilous journeys taken to escape oppression in Myanmar and squalid Bangladesh camps
Rohingya still in Myanmar, where a brutal conflict has taken place since the military seized power in a coup in 2021, are stuck in the middle of fighting between the junta and a rival group, the Arakan Army. The fighting means humanitarian aid, which persecuted Rohingya rely upon, has been reduced.

7 January
Myanmar’s military holds election talks with armed ethnic groups
The Shan State Progress Party, United Wa State Party and National Democratic Alliance Army have attended elections talks.
(Al Jazeera) Myanmar’s military met with five smaller ethnic rebel groups last month, who later released a joint statement supporting the regime’s plans to hold polls.
Myanmar has some 20 ethnic rebel armies that have fought each other as well as the country’s military for decades over their demands for autonomy, as well as for control of the lucrative drugs trade and natural resources in the country’s borderlands that fund the armed movements.

5 January
 Myanmar’s “election”
(GZero/Signal) To mark the 75th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule on Wednesday, Myanmar’s ruling junta pardoned over 7,000 prisoners — including some political detainees — and announced it will hold an election later this year. But temper your democratic expectations…

4 January
Myanmar’s military honours anti-Muslim monk, frees prisoners
Wirathu has long been known for his ultra-nationalist, anti-Muslim rhetoric, particularly against Myanmar’s Rohingya.
An ultranationalist monk in Myanmar, who was once dubbed the “face of Buddhist terror” over his role in promoting religious hatred against Muslims, has received a prestigious national award as the country’s military rulers celebrate independence from Britain.
The monk, Wirathu, was awarded the honorific “Thiri Pyanchi” title for his “outstanding work for the good of the Union of Myanmar”, the military’s information team said on Tuesday, ahead of the country’s independence day celebrations.

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