Why Myanmar military can’t be able to survive in the long run?
By: Sufian Siddique
Myanmar’s military announced on February 1, 2021 that it had taken control of the country after arresting Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders. A state of emergency was then imposed in the capital Naypyidaw and a curfew in the capital Yangon for the next year. After this, thousands of people broke the curfew and started protesting in the streets for several weeks. Prior to that, Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD won a majority in the November 2020 general election.
A military coup occurred in the country due to differences of opinion between the civilian government and the military regarding that election. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest shortly after the overthrow of the government. After that, mass protests have been going on for several weeks demanding Suu Kyi’s release.
The military junta has faced various challenges since the coup. This includes opposition from political parties as well as insurgencies from armed groups.
Two and a quarter years after the coup, absolute control of the country has not come into the hands of the army Since the coup, a total of seven regions — Kachin, Kaya, Kaiyin, Sin, Rakhine and some states in the central part of the country such as Magui and Jagai regions — have been fighting heavily.
Among these states, Sin, Kaia, Magui and Jagai states were very peaceful in the past, there were no conflicts. But after the coup, the army is using massive force to suppress the opposition. Now the military junta has to fight with multiple forces in some areas of Myanmar.
At least 11 children were killed and 15 others are missing after army helicopter gunships attacked a school in the northern region of Sagaing earlier this week, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said. The military government said they attacked rebels hiding in the school.
At this moment, the conflict between the rebels and the military has intensified in four states. Rakhine is one of them, and this violence has also reached Bangladesh.
Not only anti-coup political party workers, but now any anti-junta expression or activity is being suppressed. There are cases of public attacks, arrests and disappearances of leaders and activists.
Also, the National League for Democracy, NLD led by Aung San Suu Kyi is being pressured in various ways. Suu Kyi has been sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for corruption and election fraud. In July, the army executed four pro-democracy activists.
Faced with persecution, millions of people have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh and India. The way the activities of the NLD and other political parties have been suppressed has now closed the opportunity for open protest.
The NLD and other political parties who were agitating on the streets for democracy, those street movements were completely and brutally repressed by the army. A lot of people were killed, and there doesn’t seem to be much room for that kind of movement.
The brutal suppression of the democratic movement by the military junta has led to the Burmese population, the core population of the country, who were not inclined to take up arms, are now taking up arms.
Now, not only the NLD, but also other political parties and various tribal groups that had already joined the struggle, have all come together to form a parallel government, known as the Government of National Unity. This National Unity Government began campaigning for international recognition. Foreign ministers of ASEAN and Malaysia have already met their delegation publicly.
Alongside the parallel government, many of Myanmar’s younger generation are now joining armed groups and undergoing military training. A large number of them are pro-democracy movement leaders and victims of military repression.
About 100 new armed groups have emerged in the country since the coup, and most of them are based in remote areas. And the groups organized pro-democracy forces from around the country to form a force called the People’s Defense Force – PDF. Myanmar ex-soldiers confess to killing, raping and burning villages These forces are now resisting the military forces in various towns and villages.
The military is under great pressure in internal politics due to the spread of the anti-junta movement at various levels.
Domestic politics have been compounded by the pressure of international sanctions, which have crippled Myanmar’s economy. The economic crisis in Myanmar was triggered by Covid-19 and political instability.
After turning around a bit from there, Myanmar’s economy has been damaged due to various reasons including sanctions from the international community.
Inflation and unemployment rates are high in the country, fuel prices have increased due to the war in Ukraine. All in all, Myanmar’s economy is not doing well. It is true that the country receives some aid from China, but the country’s economy is suffering due to international sanctions. Although Myanmar has many kinds of natural resources including natural gas, coal, marble, limestone, tin, zinc, copper. But despite this, Myanmar is not able to use a large part of these large mineral resources due to restrictions.
The news that the military junta is in disarray due to multi-faceted pressures is not heard. one of the main reasons for this is the strictness and surveillance of the media, so that the news of the country’s internal politics does not reach the outside world. Moreover, they still survive due to trade relations with some friendly countries including China.
About 30 Chinese companies have invested in Myanmar’s oil, gas and other mineral resources. China has also built weapons factories in Myanmar. The military junta was able to ignore the sanctions of Western countries, relying on the importance of Myanmar’s geopolitical position and foreign investment. Because there are a lot of natural resources, they are strategically important, there is trade with China, Singapore, Japan and India have investments in Myanmar, that’s why we see them getting through everything.
But this time, they would be unable to ignore the western sanctions because their friends, Russia and China are also pressurized by the west. Russia is in trouble due to the involvement of war with Ukraine. Russia is going under western sanctions. On the other hand, China is busy with Taiwan crisis. China is also facing and dealing with the western pressure. Thus, it would be extremely foolish for Myanmar to think that Russia and China will protect their them ultimately.
Because the character of the state is a little bit different, they don’t care about anything – they don’t care about human rights, they don’t care about democracy, they don’t care about accountability, that’s why they go through some of these (various pressures). But they are definitely under pressure, even though More from the outside than the inside.
However, even if Myanmar’s military junta is under pressure from many sides, it is not the case that they can be overthrown now. But their fall is confirmed. Myanmar military is losing its ground day by day. But the way the violence is spreading to different levels, the loss of life and the use of weapons is increasing, it can be predicted that this conflict may continue for a long time. Media reports reveal that only 17 percent of the territory in Myanmar is under the control of the junta, 52 percent is under the NUG, and in the rest of the region, no party has absolute control. So, it is fairly safe to assume that the junta has lost its ground in the country. Their position in Rakhine is quite vulnerable. And as a result, the regional peace and security of all countries bordering Myanmar are threatened. If this crisis goes on, the neighbouring countries and regional countries will definitely take actions to stop the regional stability and that would be alarming for the Myanmar military.
The writer is independent researcher and freelance columnist, Dhaka.