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.
Nearly a million Rohingya remain stuck in Bangladesh, with little hope of going home soon, as violence rises in the camps and international agencies trim their assistance. Donors should scale the aid back up, while Dhaka should modify its approach to allow for long-term planning.
Military faced largest battlefield challenges since Feb 2021 coup as ethnic armed groups conducted attacks on multiple fronts; regime may step up brutal response, including indiscriminate bombings, in coming weeks.
Ethnic armed groups and resistance forces made major gains in north. After Three Brotherhood Alliance – comprising the three ethnic armed groups active in northern Shan State: Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Arakan Army (AA) – and allied resistance groups 27 Oct launched “Operation 1027”, in Nov their forces seized over 130 outposts from regime, inflicted casualties (including Brigadier-General) and major materiel losses on military, captured string of towns in China border area, and destroyed or secured important bridges and blocked major highways, constituting significant strategic, economic and psychological blows to military. Military responded with airstrikes and artillery, which failed to counter operation but caused civilian casualties and displaced some 82,000 in Shan state and 335,000 nationwide (bringing total number of civilians displaced since coup to over 2m). In sign of possibly greater inter-ethnic tensions to come, Shan State Progress Party 7 Nov clashed with TNLA in Muse Township, killing several.
Other groups took advantage on several fronts, threatening to overstretch military. In early Nov, one of largest ethnic armed groups – Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) – led assault together with people’s defence forces on north-western Kawlin town in Sagaing Region, which fell after several days of fighting. Additionally, resistance forces in Kayah State 11 Nov commenced “Operation 1111”, assaulting state capital Loikaw; they claimed to have shot down air force jet. Even more significantly, AA 13 Nov started series of attacks in Rakhine State, ending period of calm that followed informal ceasefire in Nov 2022. In western Myanmar, Chin forces 13 Nov attacked Rikhawdar town on India-Myanmar border, ultimately seizing it. For first time in decades, military will have to fight numerous, determined and well-armed opponents simultaneously in multiple theatres; it may double down on brutal efforts to reverse tide on battlefield, including scorched-earth tactics and indiscriminate bombing in coming weeks.
Myanmar needs Russia because it doesn't want to be isolated ... and they also need an alternative to China in the region.
If combat persists [in Rakhine State], it will open a significant new front for the regime [in Myanmar], which is already overstretched.
The election [in Myanmar] was the regime's exit strategy from day one, and it doesn't appear to have a backup plan.
Any release of prisoners is of course welcome for the individuals and their families, but this does not represent any sort of concession by the regime [in Myanmar].
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 week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard is joined by Crisis Group’s Myanmar expert Richard Horsey, to discuss ethnic armed groups’ offensive against Myanmar's military in northern Shan State, fighting between resistance forces and the army elsewhere, China’s response to the escalation and the humanitarian consequences.
Fighting has intensified greatly in Myanmar in recent weeks. Having started in northern Shan State, it is now spreading elsewhere. As Crisis Group expert Richard Horsey explains in this Q&A, the military is under significant pressure on the battlefield, with worrying humanitarian implications.
This event brings together analysts and prominent civil society members to discuss the evolution of governance in Myanmar and what this means for stakeholders inside and outside the country.
The Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh looks set to drag on indefinitely. Insecurity in the overcrowded camps is growing. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2023 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges Europe to keep providing humanitarian assistance and increase its intake of refugees.
With Myanmar’s military fighting on other fronts, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army is firming up its foothold in the country’s north. Clashes with other ethnic armed groups are possible. The Ta’ang group should focus on improving governance in its areas, in conjunction with civil society.
Over the last fifteen years, an illicit economy – comprising everything from unregistered casinos to online scamming operations – has boomed along a stretch of the Mekong River separating Laos and Myanmar. Regional states will need to work together to rein in the criminal syndicates behind it.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks with Richard Horsey, Crisis Group’s Myanmar expert, about the war in Myanmar and why such a grave crisis in the heart of Asia is getting so little attention.
In this online event, Crisis Group’s analysts and external experts discuss the current state of play in Myanmar, how the conflict situation may evolve over the coming year, and the prospects for an exit from the country’s crisis. More information in our recent Asia report A Road to Nowhere: The Myanmar Regime’s Stage-managed Elections.
Two years after carrying out a coup, Myanmar’s generals are planning elections to entrench their role in politics. Amid the widespread resistance to their regime, the polls are bound to intensify armed conflict. Yet there are several ways to keep electoral violence to a minimum.
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