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.
Regime remained on backfoot as ethnic armed groups in north expanded control before agreeing to another tenuous ceasefire, while Arakan Army made major gains in west; regime extended state of emergency for six months.
Three Brotherhood Alliance seized territory in Shan State before partial ceasefire. After collapse of China-brokered peace talks on 23 Dec, heavy clashes continued between Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) – member of Three Brotherhood Alliance – and regime in Kokang Self-Administered Zone in northern Shan State, where MNDAA seized full control of Laukkai town as 2,400 soldiers 3 Jan surrendered. Brotherhood Alliance 6 Jan attacked Hopang and Pan Lone towns in regime-controlled part of Wa Self-Administered Division. Concurrently, Brotherhood member Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) clashed heavily with regime forces in bid to solidify its control in northern Shan State, capturing Kutkai town on 7 Jan; TNLA consolidated its position around Lashio, Kyaukme and Hsipaw towns. Following third round of China-brokered talks, regime and Brotherhood Alliance 11 Jan agreed to ceasefire in northern Shan State; TNLA, however, 13 Jan accused regime of launching airstrikes in Kyaukme and Mogoke townships.
Arakan Army (AA) broadened its offensive in Rakhine. With 11 Jan ceasefire not applying to Rakhine theatre, AA (member of alliance) 15 Jan captured all of Paletwa township and detained regime brigadier-general before expanding operations further south, forcing battalion of regime soldiers to surrender in Minbya on 17 Jan, and seizing Pauktaw town, close to state capital Sittwe, on 24 Jan.
Hostilities persisted in Kachin and Kayah states. After Kachin Independence Army (KIA) mid Dec captured two outposts in Kachin State from military and allied militia forces, KIA 3 Jan shot down regime Mi-17 transport helicopter near Laiza, killing six crew members. In Kayah, Karenni Nationalities Defence Force and other allied groups claimed to control more than 80% of state capital Loikaw.
Regime extended state of emergency. Despite devastating battlefield losses and unprecedented nationalist criticism of regime leader Min Aung Hlaing, regime showed little sign of panic: Min Aung Hlaing 4 Jan announced plans to hold national census to improve voter list for general election. On eve of third anniversary of coup, regime 31 Jan extended state of emergency for six months.
The [Myanmar] military is clearly facing significant manpower shortages, which is why it is introducing a draft for the first time in its history.
The military [in Myanmar] might not have the ability to vanquish its opponents, but it retains an enormous capacity for violence, especially against civilian targets.
When the Myanmar military feels under pressure, its normal response is to ramp up the level of violence.
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.
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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