The numerous ethnic armed groups fighting Myanmar’s regime have taken different tacks after the 2021 coup. Some are aiding the parallel government; others are not. With civil strife set to continue for some time, donors should concentrate on mitigating war’s effects on the population.
Regime violence against civilians continued, triggering protests and international condemnation, while court convicted deposed leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. In Yangon city, military vehicle 5 Dec accelerated into demonstrators and bystanders in Kyeemyindaing township, with soldiers firing on fleeing protesters, reportedly killing at least five; residents same day resumed banging pots and pans in protest as soldiers responded by breaking windows, vandalising parked cars and firing slingshots at residents on balconies. In grievous human rights abuse in Sagaing region, security forces 7 Dec implicated in killing and incinerating 11 civilians, including six teenagers, in Done Taw village, Salingyi township; authorities previous day reportedly detained villagers after suspected members of local People’s Defence Force attacked military convoys with IEDs. U.S. described incident as “sickening” while UN human rights office warned of “alarming escalation of grave human rights abuses in Myanmar”. Protesters 10 Dec organised “silent strike” with high participation across country as streets were deserted and businesses shuttered despite regime threats. U.S., U.K. and Canada same day announced further targeted sanctions, including against several chief ministers, directorates of defence industries and procurement, and Myanmar War Veterans’ Organisation. In Kayin State, regime forces 14 Dec raided Karen National Union (KNU)-administered Lay Kay Kaw village, Myawaddy township, arresting some 60 political dissidents, National League for Democracy MP and members of Civil Disobedience Movement. Regime forces next day clashed with KNU, displacing thousands and sparking tensions with neighbouring Thailand after shells landed across border (see Thailand). Military forces 24 Dec killed at least 35 civilians outside Moso village, Kayah State; in response, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 30 Dec called for “international preventive action…including an arms embargo”. Naypyitaw court 6 Dec sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi and former President Win Myint to four years imprisonment for incitement and violation of COVID-19 rules; regime same day reduced sentences to two years house arrest. UN General Assembly’s Credentials Committee 1 Dec deferred decision on whether to accredit regime’s nominee, maintaining incumbent permanent representative, National Unity Govt-affiliated Kyaw Moe Tun, likely until Sept 2022 General Assembly session.
World attention to Myanmar is waning, despite the deepening impasse between the junta and resistance forces. Major powers should back the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in reinvigorated efforts to relieve the suffering of people facing poverty and disease as well as regime repression.
Across Myanmar, militias are forming to counter deadly repression of demonstrations against the 1 February coup. In response, the military has deliberately targeted civilians, displacing tens of thousands. Outside actors should press the regime to respect international law and allow humanitarian aid to the displaced.
In order to silence opposition to the February coup, Myanmar’s military is vigorously policing the internet as it quashes street protests. Outside powers and technology companies should endeavour to keep the online space free of interference and deny the junta tools of virtual repression.
Two months after the 1 February coup, Myanmar is in a deep crisis. The military seems bent on imposing its will, using draconian tactics that are only strengthening demonstrators’ will to resist. International actors should stay united in urging the junta to change course.
Myanmar’s military overthrew its newly elected parliament on 1 February, halting the country’s democratic transition and sparking massive protests. External actors should cooperate to prevent a violent crackdown and adopt tailored measures that target coup leaders, without penalising the population or damaging the broader economy.
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.
Many people in Myanmar struggle to see how nonviolence can be effective in a situation where the regime is willing to unleash extraordinary levels of violence against ordinary people.
This is a deep, deep economic crisis [in Myanmar]. It’s a confidence issue — confidence in the regime, the banks and the economy.
The 1 February coup d’état has pushed Myanmar toward possible state collapse. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2021 – Spring Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to channel significant aid to Myanmar, support regional diplomacy, expand targeted sanctions on the regime and ensure that the EU arms embargo is strictly enforced.
Every year Crisis Group publishes two additional Watch List updates that complement its annual Watch List for the EU, most recently published in January 2021. These publications identify major crises and conflict situations where the European Union and its member states can generate stronger prospects for peace. The Spring Update of the Watch List 2021 includes entries on Bolivia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Ukraine and Yemen.
In a briefing to the UN Security Council’s 9 April 2021 'Arria-Formula' Meeting on the situation in Myanmar, Crisis Group’s Myanmar expert Richard Horsey warned that the country stands on the brink of state failure, and argued that there is every justification for the Council to impose an arms embargo on the regime.