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‘Junta’s coup kills peace in Myanmar’

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 13 January, 2022 12:00 AM
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‘Junta’s coup kills peace in Myanmar’

Myanmar military’s February 2021 coup d’état has dramatically reshaped the country’s conflict landscape, killing off the decade-old peace process and sparking a new wave of violence.

New forces have emerged, long-established ethnic armed groups have recommitted to insurgency and heavy clashes have erupted in areas that had not seen significant fighting in decades, according to a report of the International Crisis Group (ICG) released on Thursday.

The opposition National Unity Government (NUG) has sought to rally non-state forces – both old and new – to its side in order to topple the junta, with mixed results.

Most ethnic armed groups are hostile to the military regime, but they also see little prospect of it collapsing and until now have been reluctant to cement alliances with the opposition. With the multiplication of new fronts stretching its capacities, the military is likely to seek bilateral deals with some groups to free up troops, as it has done in the past, reads the report.

As Myanmar appears headed for protracted conflict, international donors that supported the now failed peace process should shift their focus to alleviating the impact of renewed fighting on local populations.        From the first weeks after the coup, ethnic armed groups have been important players in the battle between the regime and its political opponents, it said.

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), which was established shortly after the coup by deposed lawmakers, who had been elected in November 2020, and its parallel administration, the NUG, have sought to build political and military alliances with ethnic armed groups.

They have made a number of important concessions, including appointing an ethnically diverse cabinet, repealing the military-drafted 2008 constitution and announcing plans for a new federal charter, in an effort to convince ethnic armed groups that they have a historic opportunity to build the federal system they have long fought for.

A significant amount of political and military cooperation against the regime is taking place. A united front comprising all of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups joining the NUG in taking the fight to the military regime is not a realistic prospect, given their diversity and the historical rivalries among them.

But at least four groups have emerged as important partners of the parallel government, and another half-dozen or so have engaged with the NUG to some degree. In doing so, they have taken a significant risk, motivated largely by the need to respond to public sentiment but also to some degree by the opportunity to establish a genuinely federal state.  Even among those groups more inclined to side with opposition forces, however, the CRPH/NUG has struggled to overcome a legacy of mistrust. As a result, even armed groups that have offered important support to the opposition movement have mostly kept relations informal.

Ethnic leaders are well aware that Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing is very unlikely to accept a genuine federal system, but the regime has other inducements it can offer, such as promises of de facto autonomy and economic concessions, as well as threats of force.

Myanmar is likely faces a protracted period of increased conflict, as neither the Tatmadaw nor the opposition appears likely to prevail. Still, despite some hiccups, the opposition movement is gradually building strength, reads the report.