he three powerful armed ethnic militias of Myanmar, which have joined hands to take on the military junta that staged a bloody coup nearly three years back, claim the end of the military dictatorship has begun. That may be an exaggeration, but there is no denying the fact that the junta has been jolted by the new form of resistance being offered by the militias in league with a group of the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The offensive gathered steam after the three armed outfits formally closed ranks on October 27 and launched attacks on the military with unprecedented coordination. It has exposed the limits and weaknesses of the junta which loses strategic border towns, key military positions and vital trade routes in a manner not seen in decades. Experts say the junta is actively collapsing because of the wider effort across the country.
This narrative has sprung surprise on the world as the coup was expected to repeat what the junta did before, which was to snatch back the limited control they had ceded to elected civilian leaders and crush the democratic aspirations of the people. But, now the resistance is not only growing, but getting far more firepower than before. Initially, it started as a brave, spirited campaign of civil disobedience. Then thousands of civilians joined armed groups, including People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) set up by the national unity government formed from the remnants of National League for Democracy. The most crucial development took place last month when the Three Brotherhood Alliance – comprising three ethnic armed groups – launched a massive offensive against regime targets in northern Shan state. They achieved spectacular success, capturing large swathes of territory including military bases and border crossings. This led to a further wave of attacks by groups around the country. The alliance declared its goal of overthrowing the junta and restoring democracy.
Of course, the military has hit back and a situation is created which the UN describes as the largest and most geographically extensive escalation since the coup. All the same, the resistance has dealt a humiliating blow to the army and enormously boosted the opposition’s morale. People of Myanmar have begun, for the first time, to believe that they may have a future – however distant – without the generals.
The development is of great concern for both China and India. In fact, it is an open secret that China supplies the Brotherhood Alliance members with arms to maintain stability along its borders. Hence, it would not be wrong to conclude that they have China’s tacit approval in carrying out their “mission” against the junta. Reports are trickling down that Beijing has been angered by the military for not taking actions against organised crime bases that are targeting Chinese nationals. China may also have plans to have future access to resources with support from the armed groups working in tandem with the people and the NLD to oust the military from power. On the other hand, India has openly sided with the junta by not showing any support to the Brotherhood Alliance. Later, whenever the junta falls, which is bound to happen, India will be viewed as an enemy of the people of Burma.
As things stand, a far more intense and even bloodier battle is ahead as the army will have no qualms to launch major attacks as retaliation soon. Schools and hospitals have long been targets of the military regime just as the world has been witnessing in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
India needs to reformulate its strategy vis-a-vis Myanmar. It continues to work with the junta to secure its own interests ignoring the state government of Mizoram which has not hesitated to provide shelter to fleeing people of Myanmar for their ethnic affinity and humanitarian concerns. The Centre, however, is reluctant to antagonise the junta fearing the latter will gravitate even more towards China that would supposedly be detrimental to India’s interests. At the same time since China seems to be reworking its strategy and may ditch the junta, India can ill afford to shut its eyes to the cause of the people of Myanmar.