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Rebels gain ground in Myanmar

Myanmar’s military rulers are under pressure since three ethnic armed groups launched a coordinated offensive in late October. They made significant inroads in military-controlled areas on the border with China in Shan State seizing control of several towns & >100 security outposts. What makes this offensive by the insurgents significant is that it marks the first time that the well-armed insurgents operating in Shan State have explicitly aligned themselves & their military operations with the wider campaign to overthrow the junta & restore democratic rule. These three insurgent groups have long-held ambitions to expand the territory they hold. And crucially China, which normally acts as a restraining influence on all the groups along its border with Myanmar, has not prevented this operation from going ahead.

The offensive by forces opposed to military rule is spreading. The rebels opened two new fronts in country’s north-western states of Chin & Rakhine. Chin National Front (CNF) fighters secured control of Rikhawdar & Khawmawi military camps in Chin state. >5,000 people fled to India; 39 Myanmar soldiers had crossed over to India; they have returned to Myanmar. CNF may look to consolidate control along India-Myanmar border.

Arakan Army (AA), fighting for greater autonomy in Rakhine State, seized two military posts in Rathedaung & Minbya towns. Tanks were deployed in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe. The state witnessed a brutal crackdown on Rohingyas in 2017.

Ethnic armed groups also reported successful advances in the central state of Sagaing.

The generals have realised the challenges these offensive poses to the regime. The military-appointed President last week said Myanmar was at the risk of breaking apart.

A civil war has been raging in Myanmar since Senior General Min Aung Hlaing junta seized power in 2021, leading to fights between Army & pro-democracy groups as well as ethnic armed groups.

A Myanmar advocacy group says 4,182 civilians have been killed & 20,000 jailed by the regime. The UN says 1.7 million people have been forced from their homes.

Instability has adversely impacted businesses across Myanmar. Some international firms have withdrawn, though many MNCs continue operations with additional precautions. In Oct 2022, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) added Myanmar to the list of high-risk jurisdictions (blacklist) due to lack of progress on anti-money laundering & counter-terrorist financing action plan. Some countries have imposed financial, trade & immigration sanctions on Myanmar.

China is closely monitored by observers, wary of potential instability along its borders. India is deeply concerned about the potential spillover of Myanmar’s prolonged insurgency. Indian state of Mizoram has received >35,000 Chin refugees since Feb 2021. The planned highway to Thailand is in jeopardy. 

MitKat closely monitors Myanmar’s developments; for further info, visit www.datasurfr.ai or www.mitkatadvisory.com

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