Crisis Group is monitoring the upsurge in violence in the country triggered by the military's 1 February 2021 coup d'état which deposed the Aung San Suu Kyi administration. The regime has brutally cracked down on protesters, killing hundreds and detaining thousands. Public sector strikes and other forms of civil disobedience have prevented the regime from consolidating its control, and plunged the country into deep economic crisis. Some of the country’s ethnic armed groups have gone on the offensive, and new forms of armed resistance by civilian militias and underground networks have emerged. Although Rakhine State has so far avoided some of the worst of the violence, the plight of the Rohingya remains unaddressed and the prospects for a return of almost one million languishing in camps in Bangladesh looks bleak. Through field research and advocacy, Crisis Group works to understand the new violent dynamics unleashed by the coup and mitigate the impact on the people of the country.
The Sangha, Myanmar’s Buddhist monastic community, has largely stayed out of politics since the 2021 coup. As youth take the vanguard of resistance, a long-term shift in the country’s civic life – and a conservative backlash – could be in the offing. The issue bears close watching.
Govt delayed elections as it extended state of emergency and expanded martial law, while military and resistance groups clashed heavily and regional leaders debated crisis response.
Regime extended state of emergency and imposed martial law. Amid widespread insecurity, regime 1 Feb announced six-month extension of state of emergency, beyond constitutional deadline, pushing back timeline of election to no later than 31 Jan 2024. Regime 2 Feb imposed martial law on 37 townships in eight states and regions, and another three townships on 22 Feb, bringing total number of townships under martial law to 52. Election preparations, however, continued: govt 3 Feb said voter list data from some 87% of households had been verified.
Resistance groups continued raids and battled regime forces. In Chin State, Chin National Army and Chinland Defence Force 8 Feb raided police station in Thantlang town, killing four soldiers; military next day launched airstrikes around town. In Sagaing region, resistance groups led by Homalin People’s Defence Force (PDF) early Feb overran Shwe Pyi Aye town, Homalin township, before major military offensive repelled resistance. Regime forces 4-5 Feb allegedly raided five villages in Kanbalu township, displacing 2,000 villagers. Regime 7 Feb overran resistance camps in southern Salingyi township following martial law imposition. Light Infantry Division 44 soldiers 3 Feb allegedly beheaded six PDF members and killed one civilian near Pale township. In Magway region, Pakokku District PDF Battalion 3 on 5 Feb attacked two regime vehicles on Pakokku-Yesagyo road, killing seven.
Indonesia and Malaysia urged more robust crisis response. Indonesian President Widodo 1 Feb revealed intention to send top general to Myanmar “as soon as possible” for dialogue and said regional bloc ASEAN would not be “held hostage” by crisis. ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat held 3-4 Feb concluded “inclusive national dialogue” was only way to peacefully resolve crisis. In meeting with Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim 9 Feb urged Thailand to take more active role, next day said crisis should “not frustrate our moves”. Meanwhile, European Union 20 Feb imposed fresh sanctions on nine regime-linked individuals and seven entities.
You might ask ‘why would the military be interested in negotiating to take them [Rohingya refugees] back when it was the one that forced them to leave for the military re...
This charge against a Japanese journalist shows the regime [in Myanmar] is determined to continue stifling objective reporting, whether by local or foreign journalists.
Myanmar's status as one of the world's largest illicit drug producers is only possible because of criminal justice failures.
Myanmar needs to be a much higher diplomatic priority for the major powers and the UN.
There’s significance in the propaganda war that’s playing out [in Myanmar]. I think they [the military] make the resistance feel emboldened and confident.
Much of the population [of Myanmar] is determined to prevent a return to military rule, at the cost of their lives if necessary.
In defiance of prevailing patriarchal norms, young women are playing instrumental roles in the country’s “Spring Revolution.”
Politics in Myanmar is traditionally the domain of older men, but women and youth have been prominent in resistance to the 2021 military takeover. Giving them a bigger voice could have a positive effect on the country's political culture, no matter how the crisis ends.
Myanmar’s military regime is planning elections despite facing widespread resistance. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023, Crisis Group explains how the EU and its member states can help ease the country’s political and humanitarian crisis.
Anti-military groups in Myanmar have crowdfunded successfully over the past eighteen months despite regime efforts to deprive them of resources. Fundraisers should take steps to shield contributors from retribution, while international donors should work with local groups to channel aid to hard-hit civilians.
In August 2017, the Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. Hundreds of thousands fled and are now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Thomas Kean explains why prospects for near-term repatriation remain low.
Facing opprobrium after the 2021 coup, the junta in Naypyitaw has deepened its relationship with the Kremlin to relieve international pressure. Powers wishing to see Myanmar return to democracy should not try to break these ties but rather redouble their targeted sanctions and embargo efforts.
An unofficial ceasefire has kept Rakhine State quiet compared to much of Myanmar following the 2021 coup. But friction is building between the military and ethnic Rakhine fighters. The parties should strike a formal deal to avert a return to war.
Armed opposition to Myanmar’s coup is spreading, leading the junta to mobilise civilian militias that, in turn, have set off a spate of reprisals. For now, informal justice meted out by local leaders is the best means of stopping the pattern from becoming self-sustaining.
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