Meanwhile in Myanmar
While the world is busy in equating politico-military balance over the Russia-Ukraine war, Myanmar military increased atrocities since the beginning of this year. On the 77th Armed Forces Day on 27 March, the Myanmar junta chief vowed to “annihilate” political dissidents, whom he calls “terrorists”. Before this declaration on the Armed Forces Day, the regime launched a “kill all, torch all” campaign to crush dissidents in the Sagaing region which is a stronghold of opposition forces. To crush the opposition, the regime has also formed armed militia to support the army. The media has reported the burning of a couple of hundred villages in Sagaing since January this year.
Besides military atrocities, the regime has been inflicting wide range of oppressive administrative actions against the political opponents and the people. The regime has been exercising a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against ‘opposition to military rule’ and unleashed a combination of military atrocities and administrative persecution. It revoked citizenship of the members of the National Unity Government (NUG) and prominent activists because “they had allegedly fled the country and harmed national interest”. NUG’s human right minister reacted to the revocation saying “Ceasing citizenship of cabinet members by terrorist military junta is just a joke.”
To deter the resistance groups, the military government seized properties of the members of NLD, officials in the deposed NLD Government, representatives of National Unity Government (NUG) and its parliamentarians, political activists, striking civil servants, journalists, celebrities and businessmen supporting the resistance movements. To survive junta’s purge, people in increasing numbers are publicly severing their association with siblings who joined the resistance movement.
The west imposed targeted sanctions against Myanmar generals without impacting any improvement in the political or human right situation. Prior to US declaration recognizing Myanmar’s genocide crime in March 2022, Myanmar and China in December 2021 have accepted the Chinese yuan as an official settlement currency in border trade gradually expanding to maritime trade. The agreement is aimed at avoiding Myanmar’s international settlement in US dollar in the event of wider economic sanction in future. In the backdrop of sanctions heaped against Russia, China hopes to expand the use of yuan in bilateral trade with more countries to avoid unilateral or wider international sanctions and counter US dollar dominance in international trade. Myanmar also looks to accept baht in bilateral trade between Myanmar and Thailand.
Read Also: Open letter warns China of attacks on projects in Myanmar
The regime is endeavoring to secure things nationally and internationally but troubles are growing. NUG’s Yangon Region Military Command claimed in a statement to have attacked 1,128 military targets in the region since the declaration of people’s war. Its forces claims to have attacked 443 administrative, 587 military targets and 98 military owned businesses killing 253 and injuring 300.
Myanmar Now online 5 April 2022 reported, “Applicants to Myanmar military academy dwindling”. The military academy known as Defence Services Academy (DSA) is located at Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay region. The central region has long been the site of the majority of applicants to the academy, but the number of youth opting to join the “junta’s armed forces has plummeted”. A military defector was quoted to have explained reasons of declining recruitment saying, “No parents will let their children die for nothing at a time like this. They [back at home] also don’t want to be hated by the public. That’s why I say the end is near for the military dictators”.
Increased defection from the military and battlefield attrition seem to have created shortage of officers to command military battalions. At the end of March 2022, the regime issued a law disbanding 6 out 18 departments of Myanmar Police. It was done to offset officer shortage in battalion who fights the ethnic armed groups and resistance forces. Police has also been instructed to fight side by side army on the front line. In another move on 31 March, the junta raised retirement age from sixty to sixty-two for all government officials including military and police “to shore up its dwindling military power”.
Fighting between People’s Defence Force and ethnic armed groups and Myanmar military has increased in recent days, so is the defection from army putting severe strain on military ranks and files resulting into heavy dependence on air power, artillery and tanks to hold opposing forces dug in their defence. To encourage more defections from army, navy and air force, NUG has declared reward up to “US$500,000 to airmen and sailors who defect from their unit with a military air plane or navy vessel.” Other reward packages include, US$300,000 for seriously damaging a fighter jet, military helicopter or transport plane on ground or warship at berth or anchorage or destroying one while it is being used in a military mission and US$100,000 reward for sabotaging a jet fuel reserve tank or blow up a regime armory or weapon factory, or defect with a tank or armored personnel carrier. Australia granting asylum to military defectors from Myanmar came as a punch to regime’s effort to keep defection in check.
In the Rakhine state informal truce between Myanmar Army and Arakan Army (AA) strained by army’s opportunistic attacks on AA positions without opening new front. AA has threatened to start the war. Renewed fight in Rakhine will complicate regime’s struggle in pinning down opposition forces. Military regimes never confronted a combination of political and armed resistance on the magnitude what it is confronting today. Myanmar’s military regimes since 1962 changed batons but never gave it up, to leave politics with politicians. Anyway, do all these developments happening now in Myanmar mean that the regime’s days are coming to a close? Time has the best answer.
Mohammad Abdur Razzak is a retired Commodore of Bangladesh Navy and a security analyst.