The 2021 crisis in Myanmar had the country on the verge of collapse. The Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security, a local research group, said that as of January 2022 about 61% of the country was embroiled in armed conflict. Before the coup, 65% of the country was peaceful. Widespread destruction from the armed conflict between the junta and anti-coup forces, combined with economic instability, painted a bleak future for the country. Since seizing power, the military junta had violently suppressed public dissent, killing 1,435 people and is currently holding 8,385 more in detention.
An estimated 2,380 Myanmar junta soldiers were killed and around 600 wounded during December 2021, according to the parallel National Unity Government. Between Dec. 7 and Jan. 6, 1,077 blasts and attacks targeting junta forces were reported across the country, except in Rakhine State. The preceding month, 788 incidents were reported with 2,117 regime troops killed and 682 injured.
There were long-running armed internal conflicts across the country. Reports of killings, disappearances, beatings, torture, forced labor, forced relocations, the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, excessive use of force, disregard for civilian life, sexual violence, and other abuses committed by government forces and armed opposition and rebel groups were common. Within the military, impunity for abuses and crimes continued, although the military took disciplinary action in limited cases. Military officials reportedly killed, tortured, and otherwise seriously abused civilians in conflict areas without public inquiry or accountability. Following ethnic armed groups’ attacks on the military, the military reportedly often directed its attacks against civilians, resulting in deaths.
Four ethnic armed groups–the Kachin Independence Army, the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization; the Shan State Army, the armed wing of the Shan State Progress Party; the United Wa State Army; and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army–were listed in the UN secretary-general’s 2020 report on Children and Armed Conflict as perpetrators of the unlawful recruitment and use of children. The military was conditionally delisted by the secretary-general as a perpetrator of unlawful recruitment and use of children due to continued progress on child recruitment, although the secretary-general called for continued progress on use of children.
The government restricted the passage of relief supplies and access by international humanitarian organizations to conflict-affected areas of Rakhine, Chin, Kachin, and Shan States. The government regularly denied access to the United Nations, international NGOs, and diplomatic missions, asserting the military could not ensure their security or by claiming that humanitarian assistance would benefit ethnic armed group forces. In some cases the military allowed gradual access as government forces regained control over contested areas.
As of November 2020, an estimated 326,500 individuals were living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to violence in Rakhine, Kachin, Chin, and northern Shan States. The large number of primarily ethnic minority IDPs in primarily ethnic-dominated parts of the country can be traced back to decades of conflict between the central government and ethnic communities.
Myanmar’s military had accepted the concept of federalism on 21 August 2020 after decades of resistance to the idea, signing an agreement on the final day of government-sponsored peace talks to set the stage for building a federal democratic union after 2020. The shift reverses 70 years of military rejection of a federal union for the complex multi-ethnic nation, but analysts said the latest agreement was thin on concrete achievements. The hard work lies ahead as the national army continues to fight wars in far-flung states dominated by ethnic minority groups, they said.
The fourth round of the Union Peace Conference included 230 representatives from the government, the military, political parties, and the 10 ethnic armed organizations that have signed the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA). Seven rebel forces, including the largest and most powerful ones, stayed away. Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun of military information committee later told reporters that rebel groups that had not signed the NCA must lay down their arms and sign the cease-fire pact so the peace process can move forward. “The military believes that any peace negotiations without a cease-fire could still be problematic,” he said.
The representatives at the Union Peace Conference, a series of meetings aimed at ending various ethnic insurgencies that have ravaged Myanmar since its founding in 1948, agreed on Union Accord Part III, the blueprint for implementing a process for creating a democratic federal union process. First inked at the 2016 round of the Union Peace Conference, the accord comprises a framework agreement for implementing the NCA, steps for implementing the peace process after 2020, and basic principles for establishing a democratic federal union.
Myanmar’s military overthrew the democratically elected NLD government on 01 February 2021, claiming the party had stolen the country’s November 2020 ballot through voter fraud. Amid nationwide turmoil, the military has stepped up offensives in remote parts of the country, triggering fierce battles with local People’s Defense Force (PDF) militias and some of the dozens of ethnic armies that control large swathes of territory along Myanmar’s periphery. Branches of the People’s Defense Force militia from a dozen different regions in Myanmar formed an alliance to collectively take on the country’s junta, despite each group facing respective offensives since the military seized power seven months ago, members said 01 September 2021. The PDF groups, which are mostly based in embattled Sagaing region and Chin state, but are also located in of Mandalay and Magway regions, as well as Kachin and other ethnic states, announced on 28 August 2021 that they had allied to bolster their resistance to the military.
They told RFA’s Myanmar Service they would welcome additional militias into the fold. “It means a stronger united force through which each group can help the others with whatever is needed,” said a member of the Nhalone-hla Hardcores, a group based in the seat of Mandalay’s Myingyan township. “Right now, we are 12 in a unified group. If other groups want to join us, our leaders will consult with them and decide whether to accept them or not.”
The alliance of a dozen PDF groups expanded on one formed by the Mindat PDF, which had been engaged in frequent clashes with the junta forces, the Kanpetlet Defense Force (KDF), the Chin National League — comprised of the Falam, Kalay and Kabaw PDFs — and the Zomi Federal Union — comprised of the Tedim and Tunzan PDFs — formed on 24 August 2021.
Defiant villagers targeted in arson attacks by pro-junta forces in northwestern Myanmar staged a protest 11 February 2022 against the “fascist army” that is leaving a widening trail of destruction in their rural township. Protesters came from four villages in Pale township, Sagaing region, where more than 1,100 houses had been burned to the ground in the past two weeks, according to residents – part of a scorched earth campaign in apparent retaliation for attacks by anti-junta People’s Defense Force militia on junta forces.
The protesters, making the three-finger salute adopted by opponents of the military, carried two red and gold peacock flags of the National League for Democracy, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi. Her civilian government was toppled in a military coup one year ago that has plunged Myanmar into a deepening civil conflict – including in this corner of Sagaing, which has become a hub of anti-junta resistance.
The arson campaign, which has forced thousands to flee, extended to Sagaing’s Mingin township to the north, where another 270 houses were destroyed in fires set by Myanmar troops and pro-junta militia on 10 February 2022 in two neighboring villages, local residents said. Another 130 houses were destroyed in Mingin township on Feb. 2, meaning that at least 1,500 houses have been razed in Pale and Mingin since Jan. 31. In the Feb. 2 attack, Bin village lost about 100 homes. Aerial photos of the settlement show a gold-colored Buddhist stupa surrounded by ashen remains of destroyed homes.
Junta claims that the situation in Myanmar is “under control” couldn’t be farther from the truth, residents and analysts said 04 March 2022, calling the comments part of a bid to “save face” in front of the global community as the nation crumbles. Speaking to Chinese and Japanese reporters during a Feb. 23 online interview, junta Information Minister Maung Maung Ohn said that the regime had “taken full control of the country’s stability and security” as it had been able to “suppress — within the bounds of law — all crimes and inhumane acts” within a short period of time.
The former general said that more than 3,000 ward or village administrators in various regions and states had resigned due to “threats” by prodemocracy People’s Defense Force (PDF) paramilitaries — who the military calls terrorists — but that the junta was able to appoint more than 2,600 people to fill the vacancies and ensure security.
As of 04 March 2022, more than 1,600 people had been killed since the coup and some 12,300 arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights organization based in Thailand.
The Biden administration has formally determined that violence committed against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar's military amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity, US officials told Reuters 20 March 2022, a move that advocates said should bolster efforts to hold the junta that now runs Myanmar accountable.
Duwa Lashi La is the acting president of the National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, a parallel government formed in opposition to the junta after the latter seized power in a February 2021 coup. Speaking to FRANCE 24 from a secret location in the country, Duwa Lashi La said 11 May 2022 that "within a year, we achieved significant success on the military and administrative fronts". He claimed that his People's Defence Force controls 15 percent of Myanmar and that combined with the ethnic resistance groups, the "collective resistance forces" control "almost 50 percent" of the country.
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