Myanmar Enters Third Year Under Military Coup As Crisis Deepens Crisis Amid Civil War

Myanmar Enters Third Year Under Military Coup As Crisis Deepens Crisis Amid Civil War

The Tatmadaw is facing an unprecedented existential crisis and is fighting to control the narrative.

PM HeblikarUpdated: Tuesday, January 30, 2024, 11:22 PM IST
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Tatmadaw | X

All eyes are now on set on February 1 when Myanmar enters the third year of the military coup amid a raging civil war. The illegal takeover of state control by the ubiquitous Tatmadaw has proved to be a failure since it has not achieved any of the objectives it set for itself.

That the civil war has a debilitating effect on the Tatmadaw is to state the obvious. The Tatmadaw is facing an unprecedented existential crisis and is fighting to control the narrative. On the other hand, anti-government forces have reported success after success in military operations against the Tatmadaw especially in the post-October 2023 period.

A careful examination of reports in the media and related commentaries will reveal that anti-government forces have scored spectacular victories in the ethnic states bordering Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. Besides, these forces are also controlling the trade routes and other choke points along the international border. This situation is causing security problems for Myanmar’s neighbours, including China, India, Bangladesh and Thailand. Each of them has respective set of concerns regarding the civil war in Myanmar and a way forward in dealing with it.

The Tatmadaw today is in a weak position. As with the international and regional bodies, the State Administrative Council (SAC) had repudiated mediation efforts consequently found itself isolated and dependant on China and Russia for support. The ASEAN will need to be the first major interlocutor for the SAC, if it so decides to address the civil war and rescue the country from reaching a point of no return.

Unfortunately, for the SAC there are more stakeholders in the country today than before, all with agendas for coming to the peace table. The stakeholders mainly the National Unity Government (NUG), the Ethnic Organizations and Pro-democracy parties have been articulating their policies towards the military as also discussing the political future. They have created more corridors of influence in the West as also in other areas. It will be interesting to note that the NUG has already pointed to its proximity to China and reaffirmed the “One China policy”.

SAC had repudiated offers of international help to address the situation. Time has come for it review the situation. The only way forward is to re-examine the ASEAN 5-point proposal suggested by the regional body’s summit in June 2022. ASEAN's role is crucial in this context. The major powers in the region- India, China and Japan - have underlined their support for an ASEAN-led initiative. Myanmar delegation to the recently concluded NAM summit have since met with other counterparts.

The two-day meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers (January 28-29, 2024) at Luang Prabang, Laos offered the beleaguered Myanmar junta a “lifeline” and a return to international mainstream. Myanmar has apparently acceded to ASEAN requirement to send a “non-political” representative, after nearly two years, to the meeting due to the existing ban on interacting with the Myanmar military officials. Further, Myanmar is reported to have agreed to ASEAN proposal for sending humanitarian aid and assistance. The Laotian mediation, beginning with the visit of its special envoy to Nay Pyi Taw (NPT) earlier in January 2024, has been productive and has met with positive reaction from members of ASEAN.

It is understood that just prior to the ASEAN FM’s meeting, the Myanmar crisis was discussed between Jake Sullivan, US National Security Advisor and Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, in Bangkok and they “hoped to have follow-up discussions at a lower level and remain focussed on promoting a return to a path of democratic transition in the country”.

The ruling junta under its leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (MAH), faces an uncertain future. Western analysts predict a possible change in the military leadership with a new dispensation taking over from the besieged SAC. General Soe Win, currently Vice-Chairman of SAC, may take over from MAH. If that happens, it would underline the fact that Senior General Than Shwe continues to wield power behind the scenes. It is also reminiscent of his action in 1996 to depose Senior General Saw Maung, then Chairman of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). He headed the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) effectively till 2011.

The author is at the Centre for National security Studies (CNSS), Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, Bengaluru.

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