Rebels gain ground on military junta in Myanmar | ET REALITY

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An alliance of rebel forces in war-torn Myanmar has seized several key cities from the country’s military regime in recent weeks, the most successful challenge to the junta that seized power in a coup in 2021 and the latest evidence of how overloaded the army has become. .

The early successes of the alliance’s campaign, which began in Shan State late last month, have encouraged resistance forces in other parts of the country, which have also taken several cities.

On Wednesday, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, called a defense and security council meeting and said the military had lost control of three cities in Shan state, the first official recognition of the losses. – And he said that the army was “committed to taking the necessary actions to counter their acts of terror.” But so far he doesn’t seem to have taken much action.

“We’re on day 14 and there’s been no real response from the military other than a bunch of meetings and saber rattling,” said Jason Tower, country director for Myanmar at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan research organization. . “I think that says a lot.”

Myint Swe, the interim president installed by the military after the coup, warned at the same meeting on Wednesday that the country was at risk of dividing.

The offensive began on October 27 after three ethnic armies (the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army) announced “Operation 1027.” The rebels, who call themselves the Brotherhood Alliance, opened fire on the military, capturing trucks and weapons, according to videos posted on social networks.

The alliance and the Government of National Unity, the shadow civilian government, said that as of Friday they had seized seven cities in Shan state, including several crucial trade routes to China, and three others in the central Sagaing region. Together, these cities cover more than 8,000 square miles, larger than the state of Delaware.

The junta is now on the verge of losing control of its most important border crossings, which account for more than 40 percent of cross-border trade vital to tax revenue, according to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

On Friday, Zaw Min Tun, the military spokesman, asked the public “not to believe rumors and propaganda.” “I would like to say that it will soon be resolved and a safe situation will be restored,” he said in a statement.

The army has been plagued by desertions and has had difficulty recruiting among a population still angry at military rule.

For two years, the various armed ethnic groups, who have fought the army for decades, and the People’s Defense Forces (former protesters who took up arms) have combined forces and now control large areas of the countryside. But these groups have operated autonomously and are fragmented across Myanmar.

Now, the resistance movement has been galvanized by the successes of the Brotherhood Alliance.

On Monday, the People’s Defense Forces said they had taken control of Kawlin, a town in the Upper Sagaing region, by raising their flag in front of a government building. On Tuesday, Karenni resistance forces said they had seized three military posts in Mese, a town in the east. On the same day, the People’s Defense Forces said they had taken control of Khampat, a town in the west.

U Kyaw Naing, spokesman for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, He said the alliance had captured more than 150 military posts.

And Lt. Col. Tar Aik Kyaw, spokesman for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, said more than 300 soldiers had surrendered in Shan state, some of whom laid down their arms without engaging in combat.

But Richard Horsey, senior adviser on Myanmar at the International Crisis Group, warned that it may be too early to call this a turning point.

“There is no straight line between problems on the battlefield somewhere like northern Shan and regime failure,” he said. “They’ve been doing this for 70 years, fighting very difficult battles in fairly important areas of Myanmar, and yet it hasn’t led to military collapse.”

The threat of the conflict spreading has also raised fears of a humanitarian crisis. Local aid workers say more than 30,000 people are displaced, with many fleeing on foot to Lashio, Shan State’s largest city, among other places.

Shan State is the largest state in Myanmar, covering almost a quarter of the country. For decades, various ethnic groups have fought each other for greater territorial control within the state. Once known for being the center of opium production in the country, it is now home to dozens of casinos and scam complexes.

Thousands of Chinese citizens have been trafficked into these centers, and in recent months China has focused on trying to shut them down and bring its people home. Laukkai, in particular, has been a hub for such scam centres. Some refugees from that city have fled to China, and last week, Thailand’s deputy police chief said the country plans to repatriate 162 Thai citizens who had been detained there.

On Tuesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the Chinese government had lodged a protest with “relevant parties” in Myanmar because the fighting had led to the deaths of Chinese citizens.

A day earlier, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Nong Rong urged Myanmar officials to maintain stability on the China-Myanmar border. China, which has expressed support for the military regime after the coup, is building a $1 billion railway line in Shan State under its Belt and Road infrastructure program.

Several analysts believe that the offensive would not have gone ahead without the implicit approval of China, which exerts a lot of influence over many of these ethnic groups and did nothing to stop the operation despite the indications that preceded it.

Amy Chang-Chien contributed reporting from Taipei.

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