BANGKOK — The prospects for peace in Myanmar, let alone a return to democracy, seem more dim than ever two years after the crisis the army took power from the elected government of Aung San Suu KyiExperts say.
On Wednesday, many groups opposing the military regime heeded calls from organizers of protests to stay at home in what they called a “silent strike” to show strength and unity. their.
The opposition’s General Strike Coordinating Body, set up shortly after the 2021 takeover, urged people to stay in their homes or workplaces from 10am to 3pm. city, with only a few vehicles on the road, and there have been reports of similar scenes elsewhere.
The level of violence across the country alarmed observers
Small-scale peaceful protests take place almost daily across the country, but on the anniversary of the military takeover on February 1, 2021, two stand out: The level of violence, especially in the countryside, has peaked. civil war level; and grassroots movements opposed to military rule defied expectations by holding back most of the ruling generals.
The violence has spread beyond rural battlefields, where troops are burning and bombing villages, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in a largely forgotten humanitarian crisis. It also occurs in cities, where activists are captured and tortured and urban guerrillas retaliate with bombings and assassinations of military-linked targets. The military, after closed trials, also executed activists accused of “terrorism” by hanging.
According to the independent Association to Support Political Prisoners, a monitoring group that tracks murders and arrests, 2,940 civilians have been killed by the authorities since the military takeover, and 17,572 others have been arrested — 13,763 of them remain in custody. The actual death toll could be much higher as this grouping usually doesn’t include junta deaths and cases in remote areas cannot be easily verified.
“The level of violence involving both armed fighters and civilians is alarming,” said Min Zaw Oo, a veteran political activist in exile and founder of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security. and surprise.
“The scale of killing and harming civilians is devastating, and unlike anything we have seen in this country in recent memory,” he said.
The war between the army and the resistance is a stalemate
When the military toppled Suu Kyi in 2021, they arrested her and leading members of her ruling National League for Democracy party, which won a landslide victory for a second term in the election. general election in November 2020. The military claims it acted because of massive election fraud, a claim not supported by objective election observers. Suu Kyi, 77 years old, is serving a total of 33 years in prison after being convicted in a series of political prosecutions brought by the military.
Soon after the military took power and quelled nonviolent protests with lethal force, thousands of young men fled to remote rural areas to become guerrilla fighters.
Operating in decentralized “People’s Self-Defense Forces” or PDFs, they are proving to be effective fighters, specializing in ambushes and sometimes overcoming isolated police and military stations. They have greatly benefited from the supplies and training provided by some of the country’s minority rebels – the Ethnic Armed Organization, or EAO – who have fought the army for many years. decade for greater autonomy.
“It’s not only a very brave thing to do, it’s also a very difficult thing to do,” Richard Horsey, an independent analyst and adviser with the International Crisis Group, told the AP. “It’s a very difficult thing to take on, you know, an army that’s fighting the war against insurgency[because]it’s basically its entire existence.”
David Mathieson, another independent analyst with more than 20 years of experience in Myanmar, says the opposition’s fighting ability is “a mixed picture of their battlefield performance, organization, and unity.” .”
“But it’s important to remember that it’s been two years and no one has predicted that they would actually be as effective as they are now. And in certain areas, PDFs have been dominant in the Myanmar military and , in many respects, is far superior”. them on the battlefield to ambush and capture strong points.”
He said that the army’s heavy weapons and air power pushed the situation to a stalemate where the PDFs did not necessarily have to capture large swaths of territory, but had to fight back and prevail.
“So nobody’s winning at the moment,” Mathieson said.
Opponents reject government election proposal
The military government of Senior Lieutenant General Min Aung Hlaing has the advantage — not only in weapons and trained manpower, but also in geography. Myanmar’s main neighbors – Thailand, China and India – have geopolitical and economic interests in Myanmar that make them content with the status quo, which largely ensures their borders become a route provide weapons and other supplies to the resistance forces. And while much of the world maintains sanctions on its generals and governments, it can rely on buying weapons from Russia and China.
Min Aung Hlaing’s government is also nominally pursuing a political solution to the crisis it has caused, most notably its promise to hold new elections this year. Ms. Suu Kyi’s party has refused to participate, mocking the votes as unfree and unfair, and other activists are taking more direct action, attacking groups from the junta that are fighting. conduct surveys to collect voter lists.
Min Zaw Oo said: “The regime is pushing for an election that the opposition claims will derail. “The election will not change the political status quo; rather, it will increase violence.”
The planned elections “are being run by a regime that has toppled the universally elected government. The people of Myanmar are clearly seeing what they are: a skeptical attempt to override those previous election results gave Daw Aung San Suu Kyi a resounding victory and her National League for Democracy so this is not an election in any sense of the word,” Horsey said. . “They have no legitimacy or credibility.”
Western countries impose military sanctions
On the diplomatic front, the junta despises international efforts to defuse the crisis, even those from sympathetic members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, who oppose The harshest response was not to invite Myanmar’s top military leaders to the meetings.
Myanmar’s military government rejects almost all attempts at reconciliation because of interference in its internal affairs.
In contrast, the resistance actively sought international support. It won small diplomatic victories on Tuesday as the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions aimed at squeezing military revenue and supply lines. The UK and Canadian sanctions are particularly notable, as they target aviation fuel supplies, a move activists are calling for to counter a growing number of air strikes. that pro-democracy forces and their allies in ethnic minority rebel groups are facing in the field.
“At the moment, neither side is ready to seek a political solution,” warned Min Zaw Oo. “The military stalemate will not change significantly this year, despite more deaths and violence.”