| 3 March 2024, Sunday |

Myanmar’s military is losing ground against coordinated nationwide attacks, buoying opposition hopes

Two weeks into a massive onslaught by three well-armed ethnic minority militias against Myanmar’s military government, an army captain battling in a forest area close to the country’s northeastern border bemoaned that he had never seen such intensive action.

The previous week, combat in Shan state had claimed the life of his commander in Myanmar’s 99th Light Infantry Division; according to the 35-year-old veteran, army outposts were under siege and in chaos.

“I have never faced these kinds of battles before,” the combat veteran told The Associated Press by phone. “This fighting in Shan is unprecedented.” Eight days later the captain was dead himself, killed defending an outpost and hastily buried near where he fell, according to his family.

The coordinated offensive in the northeast has inspired resistance forces around the country to attack, and Myanmar’s military is falling back on almost every front. The army says it’s regrouping and will regain the initiative, but hope is rising among 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 Li Kyar Win, spokesperson for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, or MNDAA, one of the three militias known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance that launched the offensive on Oct. 27.

“The goal and purpose of the alliance groups and other resistance forces are the same,” he told the AP. “We are trying to eliminate the military dictatorship.”

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.

Both sides claim they have inflicted heavy tolls on the other, though accurate casualty figures are not available. Nearly 335,000 civilians have been displaced during the current fighting, bringing the total to more than 2 million displaced nationwide, according to the United Nations.

“This is the biggest battlefield challenge that the Myanmar military has faced for decades,” said Richard Horsey, the International Crisis Group’s Myanmar expert.

“And for the regime, this is by far the most difficult moment it’s faced since the early days of the coup.”

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 centers in Myanmar from which cyberscams are run, frequently by Chinese organized 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.

The military, known as the Tatmadaw, remains far bigger and better trained than the resistance forces, and has armor, airpower and even naval assets to fight the lightly armed militias organized 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 current gains are just part of what has been a long struggle, said Nay Phone Latt, a spokesperson for the National Unity Government, the leading opposition organization.

“I would say the revolution has reached the next level, rather than to say it has reached a turning point,” he said.

“What we have now is the results of our preparation, organization and building over nearly the past three years,” he said.


  • Associated Press