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Current Affairs ( 27 Nov 2023, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Myanmar Rebels March to Topple the Military Regime

By Nava Thakuria, New Age Islam

27 November 2023

India’s eastern neighbour has been facing relentless turmoil following the military coup on 1 February 2021 and it lately witnessed a flare-up in violence as many ethnic armed outfits started a massive offensive against the Burmese military junta in the last week of October. By now some parts of Myanmar have gone under the control of pro-democracy & anti-junta rebels, which have vowed to throw away the military dictators from Naypyidaw. The intense fighting continues in the south-east Asian nation and it slowly expands into new localities with densely populated areas. From the States of Shan, Karen, Kayah (formerly Karenni), Mandalay & Sagaing divisions, the battles against the junta forces (popularly known as Tatmadaw) expanded to Rakhine and Chin States.

The land of golden pagodas slipped into an intensive conflict soon after the present band of dictators, led by Min Aung Hlaing, staged the coup over a thousand days ago alleging voting fraud and ousted a democratically elected government under the leadership of Nobel peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party National League for Democracy (NLD) recorded a massive victory in the last national elections. The pro-democracy icon was detained and later imprisoned by the military-controlled courts for many years with fictitious cases alleging her involvement in various electoral corruption.

By now 2,940 civilians have been killed and over 24,000 have been arrested by the military authorities within 1000 days of the coup, where more than 3,33,500 civilians rendered homeless because of the ongoing gun fighting between junta forces and armed rebel groups. No less than 150 media personnel were also detained by the military council and some 25 are still inside various jails. At least three journalists died of military atrocities in separate incidents. Days back, the Geneva-based global media safety and rights body Press Emblem Campaign expressed serious concern over the imprisonment of working journalists in Myanmar and urged the authorities to ensure fair trials for them.

The recent wave of gun fighting broke out on 27 October, when three ethnic minority groups (namely Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta'ang National Liberation Army and Arakan Army) coordinated their offensive in the northern Shan locality, which is adjacent to China. Named Operation 1027, the offensive has achieved some successes as Tatmadaw had to lose nearly 200 military camps and nine towns till the third week of November. Lately, the Arakan Army (AA) has launched an offensive in Rakhine State killing many soldiers and even compelling some to surrender with arms & ammunition.

Speaking to this writer, Burmese political activist Khin Ohmar informed that the Rakhine State has already descended into a full-blown civil war, where the Myanmar military is shelling innocent people and using airstrikes to displace more people while blocking humanitarian assistance to the people in distress. She also added that the military junta is laying landmines and continuing to use airstrikes on overpopulated villages as a form of collective punishment. But lately, the soldiers have been abandoning their outposts and various strategic points to avoid the hit of AA offensives, added Ohmar.

Amazingly, a recent public demonstration attracted the attention of political observers as it chanted slogans against China, which is usually known as a good neighbour and arms supplier to Myanmar. A good number of people assembled in front of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon on 19 November and propagating anti-Beijing statements was an unusual occurrence in the country. The seemingly pro-junta militia groups claimed that Beijing was behind the recent offensive against the military regime and also supporting the People’s Defence Forces (PDF), the armed wing of the National Unity Government. Speculations are now raised that Communist China wants to topple the current batch of Burmese military dictators.

The troubles in various western Myanmar localities increased the influx of refugees to northeast India. Many Burmese soldiers also crossed the porous boundary to arrive in Mizoram and were later sent back by the Indian agencies. The government in Aizawl has extended necessary support to the refugees (mostly Chin people as they enjoy ethnic proximity to Mizos). The Chin bordering hilly State now gives shelter to thousands of asylum seekers and many of their children even enrolled names in the government-run schools. Manipur and Nagaland have also witnessed the arrival of over 600 Burmese nationals in the last few days.

Meanwhile, New Delhi has directed Indian nationals in Myanmar to register their names with the embassy in Yangon. It also asked the citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the country in view of the evolving security situation there. Earlier India called for cessation of gun fighting between the junta forces and rebel groups near the international border. It maintained the call for the return of peace and stability as well as democracy in the country. The Buddhist-majority country supports a number of north-eastern militants including the Ulfa (independent) chief Paresh Barua, who have been waging a war against New Delhi for separatist homelands.

Amazingly, most of the north-eastern militants remain supportive of the Burmese military rulers and hence they are keeping themselves away from the anti-junta armed movement. But their camps are also on the rather of anti-junta groups as it came to public notice that a group of armed Burmese rebels recently raided the camp of United National Liberation Front, a banned outfit from Manipur, somewhere in Tamu locality. They also seized some documents and a large volume of arms and ammunition from the UNLF camp. New Delhi must deal with the junta carefully as it simply cannot ignore the generals if it wants a sustainable solution to insurgency problems in the region.

The writer is a northeast Bharat-based senior media columnist



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