News from forgotten Burma: The opposition National Unity Goverment (NUG) officially declares war to the Burmese military junta
After the US „cheated“ and „betrayed“ the Kurds in Northern Syria and the Afghans in Afghanistan, the Burmese opposition government, the National Unity Goverment (NUG) now fears something similar for Burma, especially after Biden has also called Xi Jinping and told him that the USA and China should avoid unpredictable Sino-American conflicts which are leading to a major conflict. The fact that the international community does nothing more than a few sanctions and appeals for dialogue has now prompted the NUG to officially declare war on the military junta. This is seen as a defense measure, and a dialogue would only be possible if the military resigns, is reformed and one can renegotiate in a position of strength. But while the military is expanding its attacks, more and more minorities in Burma want their own state, above all the Arakan Army and the United Wa Army, which are suspected of being a Chinese puppet group anyway. They no longer want a federation or confederation as is the vision of the Baymen-Burmanese opposition government. The Karen National Union is still in favor of it, but many observers see this only as a tactical concession, in order to then obtain a separate Karen state after a victory by the Burmese opposition over the junta in a second step. The military does not attack the Wa and Arakan Army insofar as they stay away from the opposition. Divide et impera! So far, deserters have been counted in 2000, „unprecedented in history“, but whether this will lead to a split in the military is not to be expected in the current situation, especially since it is also said that it is a very small number and including only 100 officers. However, the opposition reported that no more new recruits would apply to Burma’s military academy. Every year this would have been 12,000, of which the military then selected 10%, but now the number of applicants has dropped to 100, which is why there is an acute shortage of young talent, which the opposition sees as an erosion of the military and therefore wants to catalyze this process, also through the official declaration of war against the junta. To what extent this is an indicator of the weakness or the strength of the opposition is difficult to assess. There are probably mixed tendencies, especially those that run against each other, for both sides. It is also questionable whether „the majority of the Burmese people“ support the declaration of war, especially since there is no official international support and at the same time it is announced that civil protests will continue to be held alongside the armed struggle. The extent to which the military is not given a pretext remains to be seen, but apparently this no longer seems to differentiate between civil and armed struggle.
While Russia and Pakistan are trying to openly strengthen the military junta, China, despite all its support of the junta, is still in contact with the National League for Democray (NLD) of Aung San Sui Kyi and has now invitedthe NLD to the CPC meeting of the Asian parties. At the same time, China is pushing its railway line to the border with Burma in order to force a connection to the Indian Ocean alongside other projects of the New Silk Road BRI. India now sees itself encircled by China and Pakistan in Afghanistan and Burma, which is why the Burmese opposition sees this as a challenge to India’s “Neighbors First Policy”. The following is a compilation of articles from Burma’s leading opposition newspaper The Irrawady, for the overall situation about Burma, which has been forgotten in the Western mainstream media as Hongkong:
“Myanmar’s Shadow Govt Declares War on Military Regime
The National Unity Govt declared a state of emergency and called on all citizens to revolt against the junta; the move comes days before the UN General Assembly convenes.
By The Irrawaddy 7 September 2021
Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) declared war on the country’s regime on Tuesday in order “to root out military rule”, taking the ongoing armed struggle against the junta to another level, with fighting expected to intensify across the country.
In a speech to the country on Tuesday morning, the NUG’s acting president, Duwa Lashi La, called on all citizens to “revolt against the rule of military terrorists led by [coup leader] Min Aung Hlaing in every corner of the country” and declared all of Myanmar to be under a state of emergency.
“It will last until the resumption of civilian rule in the country,” he said.
The acting president also urged anyone serving under the regime to leave their job as of today and requested that the public refrain from traveling, while asking for their support.
The NUG was formed in April, largely comprising elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy government and their ethnic allies. Since its formation, it has enjoyed support at home and abroad.
The announcement of the official armed struggle against the regime comes one week before the opening of this year’s session of the UN General Assembly in New York. If fighting intensifies in the coming days, the Myanmar crisis is expected to be one of the dominant issues at the meeting.
The NUG’s call for armed struggle comes seven months after the military takeover in the country; Myanmar has already seen sporadic deadly civilian armed resistance against the military for months, as many young people have taken up arms in response to the junta’s deadly crackdowns on protesters. At the same time, ethnic armed groups in Kachin and Karen states have launched deadly offensives against regime troops to show solidarity with the anti-regime movement. The armed groups have also offered weapons training to the young people; many have launched deadly guerrilla attacks against regime troops and their associates in urban areas. As a result, the regime has been unable to assert control of the country as a whole.
Regarding the NUG’s call for war, it’s not yet clear how it would launch offensives. Despite the nationwide presence of civilian resistance groups like the People’s Defense Forces (PDF), the regime still outnumbers and outguns them.
Declaration of War Necessary as International Pressure Fails: Myanmar Shadow Govt
By The Irrawaddy 9 September 2021
Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) call on Tuesday for a war against the military regime generated mixed reactions. While the majority of Myanmar people, who have endured the regime’s atrocities such as arbitrary killings, arrests and indiscriminate shootings, heartily embraced the announcement of ‘the nationwide revolt’, the international community was not impressed.
On Tuesday, the UK’s ambassador designate to Myanmar, Pete Vowles, tweeted that “the UK supports peaceful efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar. We strongly condemn the junta’s coup and brutality; we call on all parties to engage in dialogue”. This means that the UK, which has supported the anti-regime movement since the coup, does not support the NUG’s call for a war to topple the junta. Echoing what the UK said, the US embassy in Yangon told The Irrawaddy that they encourage “all sides to be peaceful and to avoid an escalation of violence”, while continuing to push the regime to end all violence.
China, Myanmar’s biggest neighbor and one of the regime’s protectors at the United Nations Security Council, just repeated its unpractical old mantra on Myanmar, saying that “all parties and factions in Myanmar should find a proper way to address problems through political dialogue under the constitutional and legal framework”.
The NUG’s Foreign Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung has her say on the reason behind the declaration of war, and offers her view on the international response and the controversial ceasefire request made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy for Myanmar.
What is the reason for the announcement of a nationwide defensive war and all-out revolt against the junta?
The [acting] president’s speech encourages the existing resistance movement to step up the momentum of its activities. Actually, the people have been acting in self-defense in their respective regions since before the NUG’s call for a war. The official announcement on Tuesday was a consequence of the diplomatic failures we have seen, because the international pressure and sanctions [on the regime] have proved to be ineffective in the seven months since the coup. So the call is an alert to the existing revolutionary movement.
What is the NUG’s response to the international community’s reaction to the announcement?
Some countries have asked why we announced it. Our answer is simple. We have people who are continuing the peaceful protests under the leadership of the strike committees, as well as the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against military rule. The CDM and the non-violence movement aren’t stopping, while our political efforts [to get recognition and to reject the military regime] via international pressure and diplomatic channels will continue. But these efforts are not enough. Therefore, we have to put some momentum into the resistance movement. This is not a shift from a non-violent movement to violence. It is just that we will use all possible means to restore democracy.
What is the NUG’s stand on dialogue with the regime?
Every experienced person focused on peace building and conflict studies knows that there have to be pre-conditions before dialogue can happen. A period of time is needed. A change in political circumstance is needed before dialogue can happen. Such conditions and changes need to come first. Until then, we should not be pressured to hold dialogue.
The international community has always expressed their concerns since the coup. But there is no action. Our people are suffering all the time. We have been raising our voices loudly to the international community to intervene and to exert pressure on the junta.
The international intervention was sluggish. It took four months to appoint an ASEAN special envoy. During those four months, the number of civilian deaths and civilian arrests rose from the hundreds to the thousands. They could not even pressure the military’s State Administration Council to allow the ASEAN special envoy to visit Myanmar. Our people are too frustrated. We, the NUG, have a responsibility to reflect our peoples’ voices and suffering. Our call for a war is our response to the depressing lack of action by the international community.
What is the NUG’s position on the ASEAN special envoy’s proposal of a four-month ceasefire?
The envoy did not directly talk to us about the proposed four-month ceasefire. As far as we understand, the ASEAN special envoy is trying to visit Myanmar and has requested to meet all relevant stakeholders, including detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, strike committees, ethnic groups, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and the NUG. That has been ASEAN’s five-point consensus and we understand that ASEAN is trying to implement it.
Regarding the call for a ceasefire [until the end of this year], it is totally dependent on the regime as they are the ones who have been shooting civilians. People would not need to respond with defensive acts if the regime stopped attacking them. Our peoples’ actions in self-defense are the result of the military’s attacks against civilians and treating them as if they are an enemy on the battlefield. The junta has the sole responsibility and it must hold its fire.
The junta’s spokesperson has accused the NUG of inciting instability. What is the NUG’s response to that?
The NUG’s Defense Ministry has strictly instructed all the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) to follow its code of conduct. That is also publicized to make sure that the PDF’s under the NUG’s command abide by those instructions. I think people will not worry [about the NUG’s announcement on war]. They all know who is indiscriminately shooting passers-by, children and pregnant women. The reason the PDF’s were formed was because of the military’s aggressive actions. Instead of protecting the public, the military is treating the people as the enemy.
Targeting civilians is not the policy of the NUG or the PDF’s. Professional armed forces don’t go on killing sprees and commit indiscriminate attacks. The PDF’s are the first step towards changing Myanmar’s whole security sector, which has been in ruins for decades under previous military regimes as well as the current one.
Regarding the NUG’s call for a war, I think the people are excited rather than worried. They have been waiting for this day and some have said that the NUG’s declaration should have come earlier. The NUG has no responsibility for the instability in the country. It’s the coup leaders who created the instability in the country by seizing power and overthrowing the civilian government on February 1.
Myanmar Resistance Responds to NUG’s Declaration of War on Junta
By The Irrawaddy 8 September 2021
People’s Defense Forces (PDF) across Myanmar have announced an escalation in attacks on junta forces in response to the declaration of war by the shadow, civilian National Unity Government (NUG),
Several PDFs have urged residents to be alert and help resistance fighters as more fighting is expected.
In a speech on Tuesday, the NUG’s acting president Duwa Lashi La called on all citizens to “revolt against the rule of military terrorists led by coup leader Min Aung Hlaing in every corner of the country by declaring all of Myanmar to be under a state of emergency”.
A leader of the Chinland Defense Force in Mindat, which has been fighting the junta in Chin State since late April, said: “We are pleased about the NUG’s announcement about preparations for the whole country to resist the junta. We can make a move if we push together. We already have plans to force the military dictatorship out of the country.”
The Mindat resistance has inflicted heavy casualties on the military regime in the township.
On Tuesday, the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) in Kayah State said there have already been more operations against the regime since the declaration of a people’s war against the junta.
The KNDF has urged people not to be afraid of clashes and to cooperate with the PDF.
The armed group attacked junta troops deploying near Daw Poese village in Demoso Township on Tuesday.
The KNDF and Karenni Army, the armed wing of the Karenni Progressive Party, also attacked a police station in Demoso Township on Tuesday.
Armed resistance to military rule in Kayah State began in late May, following the regime’s brutal crackdowns on peaceful pro-democracy protesters across the country.
The Union Defense and Liberation Alliance, which includes several civilian resistance forces across Myanmar, announced on Tuesday that it will resist the junta.
The Area 21 Revolution Network, which includes civilian resistance forces in Mandalay, Sagaing, Magwe and Bago regions and Mon and Karen states, said it will cooperate in the people’s war against the military dictatorship and follow NUG guidelines.
On Tuesday, around nine firefights occurred between junta forces and PDFs and ethnic armed groups across the country and nine explosions targeting junta forces occurred, according to the NUG’s defense ministry and the media. An estimated 22 junta troops were reportedly killed.
Armed resistance started in late March after junta forces began killing peaceful protesters.
The regime is facing fierce attacks from ethnic armed forces and growing PDF resistance across the country, except in Rakhine State.
In August and July, more than 1,320 junta troops were killed and 560 wounded during 798 shootouts and assassinations by ethnic armed forces and PDFs, according to the NUG.
By Tuesday, over 1,050 civilians have been killed by the junta during their crackdowns, arrests, raids, interrogations and random shootings, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
More than 7,960 people, including the elected government leaders, have been detained by the junta or face arrest warrants.
“Visions of a Federal Future for Myanmar are Fading Fast
By Ye Myo Hein 1 September 2021
The chief of the Arakan Army (AA), Major General Tun Myat Naing, declared in his latest interview that the political objective of his troops is to restore the sovereignty of the Arakan fatherland, now known as Rakhine State, lost by its invasion and colonization by the Bamar Konbaung dynasty in 1784. He enunciated that “there was no bargaining in our attempt to regain the lost sovereignty of Arakan and there won’t be in the future either”. It is not the first time that Maj. Gen. Tun Myat Naing has used this sort of language. Since early 2019, he has persistently insisted on confederation as the chief objective of the AA. His first proclamation in January 2019 was that “we prefer a confederation of states like Wa State which has a larger share of power in line with the Constitution”. At the time, his statement raised a hullabaloo, drawing censure and condemnation from the Bamar majority, politicians and particularly from the Myanmar military.
However, he was relatively modest in his claim by referring to a “Wa-styled power-sharing arrangement in line with the constitution”. Now, he does not even conceal his grander intentions. He did not mention a Wa-style power sharing arrangement or the constitution before. His clear message is “restoration of Arakan’s lost sovereignty”. Intriguingly, there has been no serious response this time, with even the military staying silent. In fact, the AA has been more assertive, not just in words but also in deeds. Since November 2020, when a ceasefire was tacitly agreed between the AA and the Myanmar military, the AA has carried out its ambitious plan to tighten its grip on Rakhine State. With the military occupied with suppressing resistance to their February 1 coup, the AA has strategically stepped up to institutionalize its de facto authority in Rakhine.
Although the AA’s main power base was previously in northern Rakhine, it quickly extended its sway to the south following the coup. Consequently, the AA is now believed to control over three-quarters of the entire state. Since the coup, the AA has made a handful of significant gains thanks to the junta’s policy of appeasing its once bitter enemy. The junta lifted the world’s longest internet shutdown in Rakhine State, delisted the AA as a terrorist organization and released Rakhine political prisoners, including prominent figures such as Dr. Aye Maung and the AA chief’s relatives. In return, Rakhine State has been somewhat quiet despite the intensive anti-coup resistance mounted in other parts of the country. AA chief Maj-Gen Tun Myat Naing even said that he does not want the pro-democratic Civil Disobedience Movement and street protests spreading to Rakhine State. Consequently, the AA has been accused by the Bamar majority, and even by some analysts, of collaborating with the junta.
The AA leader repudiated those allegations, claiming that the AA is unwaveringly implementing its own “way of Rakhita” – “the struggle for national liberation and the restoration of Arakan’s sovereignty to the people of Arakan”. He elaborated the AA’s current position by conceptually dividing the revolution into four stages – the initial stage, the revolutionary stage, the rivalry stage and the conquest stage – and by placing the current struggle of the AA in the third stage.
In a bold attempt to vie with the junta’s power, the AA issued a stay-at-home order to control the COVID-19 outbreak in Rakhine State. Around 75% of Rakhine residents, according to AA officials, have complied with that order, which demonstrates the AA’s powerful influence on the Rakhine people. The AA went a step further by establishing its own administrative mechanism and, recently, judiciary in Rakhine. So far, the military has refrained from reacting harshly to the AA’s obvious political moves, preoccupied as it is with ongoing fighting in other parts of the country that is stretching its resources thin.
The AA’s northern allies have also been using Myanmar’s post-coup turmoil to their own advantage. The United Wa State Army (UWSA), the largest non-state armed group in the Asia-Pacific region, has knowingly ignored the country’s wider suffering and shrewdly focused instead on institutionally strengthening its de facto status as a semi-independent state. On the leash of China, the UWSA has been distancing itself from the democratic and federal struggle in Myanmar, as its leaders know very well that the federal arrangement that other ethnic leaders have promoted could not guarantee its current status.
Current Position of FPNCC members
Similarly, the UWSA’s smaller southern neighbor, the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), also known as the Mong La group, has also been silent on the military’s coup. In April, the junta’s peace negotiating team visited the UWSA and NDAA to explain the reasons for their coup and the current political situation, and asked them not to become involved in anti-regime resistance. The UWSA and NDAA, according to informed sources, listened to the junta, while pledging nothing. In fact, they have no stake in the anti-coup or anti-democratic movements as their main concern is to prevent the political crises and conflicts of other parts of Myanmar permeating their regions.
Other groups of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee (FPNCC) led by the UWSA, such as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA-N) have been trying to consolidate their sway in northern Shan State. The TNLA and MNDAA, together with the AA under the umbrella of the Three Brotherhood Alliance, released a statement calling on the junta to stop terrorizing and killing peaceful anti-regime protestors, and to move quickly to resolve political problems.
At the end of March, after an initial period of silence, they threatened that continued violence would lead them to support and cooperate with the ethnic people fighting in the “Spring Revolution”. The TNLA and MNDAA have engaged in sporadic fighting with the Myanmar military in northern Shan State since the coup, but the military has not reacted automatically to those attacks because its troops are overstretched elsewhere. Both the TNLA and MNDAA have exploited the uncertain situation to expand their territory in northern Shan State. The TNLA has also reportedly cooperated with the SSPP/SSA-N to drive another ethnic Shan armed group – the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-S (RCSS/SSA-S) – out of northern Shan State.
These ethnic armed groups have received fierce criticism for fighting against each other instead of targeting the military, but the critics are not aware of the underlying political dynamics of that region. In fact, these members of the FPNCC have strategically sought to expand the territory they control and to strengthen their sway in those areas. These moves were not actually made in collaboration with the junta but are strides towards fulfilling their own political agenda. Although they rarely articulate their objectives, it seems that, based on their political moves, their political future does not lie in a “federal” arrangement. The FPNCC, despite its name starting with ‘Federal’, has apparently not accepted federalism as a future structure of the state. Indeed, its proposals for the political future are tantamount to a confederated political system. However, FPNCC members, apart from the AA, have avoided explicitly disclosing their stances as that could draw an enormous backlash from backers of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and even from other ethnic armed groups that embrace the promise of a federal solution for Myanmar. Now, this concealment is no longer necessary as the post-coup situation has enabled them to make real progress towards their political goals.
Only the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), another member of the FPNCC, has been actively engaging in intense fighting with the military since the coup. The KIA has perhaps strategically maneuvered to recapture bases previously seized by the military, and extended its grip in Kachin State, which has triggered a brutal and lethal response from the junta. Additionally, some members of the Kachin Political Interim Coordination Team (KPICT), which is believed to include some representatives of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the KIA, took key positions in the National Unity Government (NUG), with Duwa Lashi La becoming the acting president.
However, based solely on the inclusion of KPICT representatives in the NUG, it is politically naïve to claim that the KIA has been fighting for the NUG or a federal future. Currently, the KIA appears to be realistically concerned with taking back control of as much territory in Kachin State as it can, while fighting against the common enemy, the military regime, instead of being dedicated to some form of future political structure. The obvious fact is that the KIA has been mute on the federal vision, especially after its resignation from the Union Nationalities Federal Council and joining the FPNCC in 2017, despite being a champion of federalism in the past.
Beyond the KIA, the federal discourse has not proved very popular, even amongst the ethnic armed groups who have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Building up a democratic federal Union is a key vision of the NCA and signatories have been obsessive about that vision since signing the NCA. In reality, however, the NCA is invalidated in the post-coup political scenario, with the military violently imposing its dictatorial rule and with armed conflicts engulfing the whole country. Out of ten NCA signatories, some brigades of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) – the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU) – and the Chin National Front (CNF) have resumed fighting with the military since the coup.
To be continued…
Ye Myo Hein is the executive director of the Tagaung Institute of Political Studies and a fellow with the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“Atrocious Myanmar Military at Risk of Splitting: Army Defectors
By The Irrawaddy 28 August 2021
With a record-breaking number of defections unmatched in nearly six decades and brewing discontent among the ranks against their superiors, Myanmar’s more than 300,000-strong military is now at risk of splitting, according to some ex-army officers who have deserted their units recently.
Currently, around 2,000 soldiers and police have joined the country’s Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), a nationwide boycott by Myanmar civil servants against the regime following their takeover in February. Many more are in the pipeline and out of the current 2,000 defectors, one-third are military personnel, said the officers who have joined the CDM as they are not pleased with the country’s military regime.
Though the number of defections is small for now, it is unprecedented in Myanmar’s military history going back to 1962 when the then dictator Ne Win staged a coup and consolidated the country’s armed forces. Some soldiers protested against the army during pro-democracy uprisings in 1988 but the number at the time was far less significant.
So, it’s worth asking why so many are doing so now.
“[Under the regime] people are ashamed to be soldiers, to attend the Defense Services Academy or to join the military. This is a very sad thing for the future of the military” said one of the officers, Captain Nyi Thuta.
After graduating in 2010 from the 52th Intake of the Defence Services Academy, he served at his base in Naypyitaw until the coup. When he learned about the takeover, he felt Myanmar was heading into a dark age. When the junta escalated its nationwide deadly crackdowns on peaceful protesters who were against their rule in March, the captain left his unit. He said “You can’t kill people who express their views.”
The regime’s brutality has shocked the world. They shot dead more than 100 people in a single day in March. They have sprayed bullets in residential areas. During raids, they have indiscriminately killed people, including children as young as 6. Arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings by the soldiers persist. As of Thursday, the junta had killed 1,019 people during their crackdowns, raids, arrests, interrogations, arbitrary killings and random shootings, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which is compiling the deaths and arrests since Feb. 1 coup.
Another defector, Captain Lin Htet Aung, said what his fellow soldiers did during the crackdowns were totally contradictory to the codes of conduct they were supposed to follow.
“They have changed into thugs with guns,” he said.
As a result, people detested the military so much that it demoralized the men in uniform like never before. The regime’s atrocities against protesters became an immediate push factor for some military personnel to join the CDM as they have become more aware of the true colors of the military junta, which has been committing atrocities and murdering its own people.
Sergeant Yin Lei Lei Tun used to be proud of being a soldier. But her faith in the armed forces she joined in 2016 was lost with the coup when she saw the junta’s atrocities against peaceful anti-regime protesters. So she joined the CDM in April after defecting from her military base in Yangon Region.
“After the coup, I feel insecure about being a soldier, as people hate the military. Our military is also doing the wrong thing” said the sergeant.
Currently, about 5 to 10 junta soldiers have been defecting from the military daily, according to the People’s Soldier group, a Facebook page co-founded by Captain Nyi Thuta to provide assistance to striking soldiers and to persuade more military personnel to leave their barracks to join the CDM.
Most of the soldiers who have joined the CDM are privates and sergeants. Officers ranking from lieutenants to majors account for around 100.
The Myanmar military has been notorious for attacking its own people rather than protecting them. Its atrocities like arbitrary killings, arrests and looting in ethnic areas are internationally well known. The coup in 2021 and follow-up atrocities have worsened its already tarnished reputation while pushing its leadership into a corner, as they are facing growing armed resistance in both urban and rural areas, forcing coup leader Min Aung Hlaing to admit he couldn’t fully control the country yet. Then they face another big blow: defections by their subordinates who detest their bosses’ actions.
Captain Nyi Thuta said the image of the military is now the worst in history, as more military personnel are realizing that the reputation of the military and soldiers have been totally shattered.
“So, this momentum [of defections] is going to grow. The sure thing is that the time has come for the people and people’s soldiers to unite,” he said.
Cracks in the military
Everyone familiar with Myanmar politics knows it is hard to imagine that change in Myanmar can come about without the involvement of some men within the military, which has remained the country’s most powerful institution since 1962.
Now with defections growing like never before, Captian Nyit Thuta said the military has potential to split into two groups: those who want to inherit the bad legacy of the military and others who don’t want to do so.
“Anyone defecting said they want to be people’s soldiers—professionals who protect the people. They don’t want to hand over the institution’s bad legacy to their juniors,” he said.
Another defecting military official, Captain Lin Htet Aung, also realized they were working for the coup leaders who put their personal benefits before the country or the military institution itself.
The captain, who graduated from the 54th Intake of the Defense Services Academy, left the military barracks in Shan State a few months after the February coup after seeing the regime’s atrocities against unarmed peaceful anti-coup demonstrators and civilians. Later he formed the People’s Embrace group to help military personnel who want to defect.
“We are seeing cracks in the military. There are many injustices in posting and other human rights violations that create discontent among the ranks against their superiors. So, the military could face a split,” said Captain Lin Htet Aung.
For examples, he explained, some military troops have been unfairly posted on the frontline for years while others who have good connections with people upstairs are being posted in safe areas like Naypyitaw, he added.
International and local observers are convinced that the military institution must split up in order to restore the path to democracy in Myanmar, as there is a lack of effective actions by the UN and international organizations and neither the armed resistance of the people nor the ethnic armed groups can defeat the junta.
Captian Lin Htet Aung also agreed with the point that without the split within the military, it’s unlikely democracy will be restored.
“Years-long bad habits [like corruption] and systems [like oppression] are deeply rooted in the military. We also need to fight to force those ingrained bad habits out in order to restore democracy. So, the institution needs to split up” he added.
In an attempt to encourage more defections, Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) on Monday issued a statement urging military personnel to join the CDM by promising to keep not only their original positions and pension allowances, but also their safety.
It also said that security forces personnel who left the military barracks can join the federal union army and police forces reformed by the NUG.
Meanwhile, people’s reception of defecting soldiers has been quite encouraging, Captain Nyi Thuta said. Both the People’s Soldiers and People’s Embrace groups are now able to support the striking soldiers due to donations made by the public.
“They now realize that people just hate soldiers who support the institution that oppresses them with guns. They know now that you will be showered with love once you are no longer affiliated with them,” he said.
For most defectors from the military, they believe that only a split within the military itself will bring about a radical change for the armed forces to become the people’s military.
Captain Lin Htet Aung said the armed forces can’t be changed even with the death of coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, as another would take his place.
“To wipe out the deeply rooted bad habits and systems of the military, reform is the only way. It can only happen when it splits,” he said.
“It could happen if we are more united.”
“Myanmar Military Struggling to Recruit New Officers
By The Irrawaddy 3 September 2021
The Myanmar military is struggling to recruit new officers, as far fewer people apply to the country’s military academies following the junta’s coup and subsequent brutal crackdowns on anti-regime protesters.
The shortage of new officer recruits is a further blow to the military, which has seen more than 1,500 personnel, including a hundred officers, defect from the army following the military takeover in February.
On Thursday, the regime announced in junta-controlled media that it has extended the deadline for applications to the academies for the “second time”, after the deadline was initially extended in August, supposedly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, a former army captain with knowledge of the application process said that the extension was because there were only “around 100 applicants” so far for the country’s three military academies.
“Around 100 people have submitted applications this year to join the military academies. Most of the candidates are from military families,” said Captain Lin Htet Aung, an army defector and founder of People’s Embrace, a Facebook group set up to encourage soldiers to desert their units and join the resistance against the military regime,
Prior to the coup, Myanmar’s three military schools – the Defence Services Academy, Defence Science and Technology Academy and Defence Services Medical Academy – each attracted some 12,000 applicants annually. Only around ten percent of candidates were normally accepted each year, said Capt. Lin Htet Aung.
He added that the steep fall in applicants is a consequence of the coup, referring to the military’s subsequent lethal crackdowns on the Myanmar people, as well as the looting and destruction of civilians’ property. As of Thursday, 1,043 people have been killed by the junta since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
“There used to be many young people who wanted to become military officers and heroes. But now no one wants to join the military because of the coup,” said the captain.
Another former captain, Nyi Thuta, who defected from the army in March, said that [under the regime] “people are ashamed to attend the Defence Services Academy or to join the military”.
He is a co-founder of the People’ Soldier group, which provides help to striking soldiers, as well as persuading military personnel to desert and join the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Currently, five to 10 soldiers are defecting from the military daily, according to the People’s Soldier group.
“Afghanistan, Myanmar Crises Test India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ Policy
By Jayanta Kalita 26 August 2021
Two of India’s key neighbors—Myanmar to the southeast and Afghanistan to the northwest—are in turmoil. The biggest South Asian power and the world’s largest democracy, India has over the years engaged with these two nations to varying degrees to aid in their democratic transitions.
But coincidentally, history is repeating itself and democracy is in disarray in both countries—the military has seized power in Myanmar by overthrowing a democratically elected government and the Taliban insurgents have taken over in Afghanistan.
The question that is being discussed in foreign policy circles is whether New Delhi could have played some proactive role to stop the upheavals in the two countries, and if it can still prevent them from turning into pariah states.
There is no easy answer to those questions, but one thing is clear: The crises in Afghanistan and Myanmar have put the Narendra Modi government’s much-publicized “Neighborhood First” policy to the test. And India’s lack of engagement with the interim regimes in both Kabul and Naypyitaw could allow China to increase its influence over them.
India’s experiments in Afghanistan
The swift and sudden takeover of Kabul by the Taliban has taken the entire world by surprise. Seen as an intelligence failure of epic proportions, countries have squarely blamed the US for its hasty exit from the war-torn country, thereby leaving the common Afghans to the mercy of trigger-happy Afghan warlords.
There was no way India could have predicted such an event given that New Delhi has always opted to play what is called soft diplomacy in the South Asian nation, focusing more on people-centric relations, rather than hardcore military and intelligence-sharing cooperation.
Buoyed by America’s “war on terror” in Afghanistan, launched in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, New Delhi invested more than US$3 billion in rebuilding the war-ravaged nation. It has completed various infrastructure development projects, including the Salma Dam, a hydropower project in Herat province; the Zaranj-Delaram highway close to the Iran border; and the Afghan Parliament building, besides hospitals and schools.
It’s worth mentioning that India was the first country to resume its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan in November 2001. And ironically, it is one of the first countries to have begun the process of shutting down consular services. For instance, India operated four consulates in Afghanistan, of which two—the ones in Jalalabad and Herat—were closed last year, purportedly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and not because of any direct threat from the Taliban. The Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif consulates were shut in the past one month or so. New Delhi finally evacuated all personnel from its Kabul embassy after the Taliban captured the capital city.
Historically, the two countries have maintained warm and friendly ties. Afghanistan has been in turmoil for almost four decades due to a mix of internal and external factors, but this has not deterred India from engaging with successive governments barring the last Taliban regime, prior to 2001.
The ousted president Ashraf Ghani maintained close relations with New Delhi as he realized that Pakistan and China were not interested in solving Afghanistan’s problems. However, China has been quick to fill the void created after the US exit from the South Asian country. Days before the fall of Kabul, Beijing hosted a Taliban delegation in the Chinese city of Tianjin.
It is believed China is keen on investing in mineral-rich Afghanistan in a big way. For this, the communist country has sought assurances from the Taliban that it will ensure security and stability in the region and curb the activities of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a UN-designated terrorist outfit that seeks to establish a Uygur state in China’s western province of Xinjiang.
India too has some old contacts in the Taliban. Taliban spokesperson Sohail Shaheen was seen on Indian television on various occasions and Sher Abbas Shanikzai, head of the Taliban’s Doha office, has referred to his training at the Indian Military Academy several times. It seems India could easily leverage these old contacts.
Earlier this year, Qatar allowed the Taliban to set up an office in the capital city Doha to facilitate peace talks with the US and countries seeking to contact the Taliban.
In June, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited Doha as New Delhi was seeking Qatari assistance to create a ground for India-Taliban relations.
Challenges before India
Coming back to the question of whether India can still do some diplomatic maneuvers with respect to Myanmar and Afghanistan, one can only be hopeful that all is not lost yet. New Delhi just needs to play its cards carefully.
On civil war-hit Myanmar, India’s position continues to be ambiguous—it has not officially condemned the Feb. 1 military coup, although New Delhi has called for an end to the ongoing violence and bloodbath. On Aug. 17, India chaired a closed UN Security Council meeting on Myanmar and welcomed the ASEAN five-point consensus, even as dissenting voices started to emerge from within the bloc.
According to New Delhi-based foreign policy analyst Prakash Nanda, there has not been any major shift in India’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Myanmar and Afghanistan for decades. “The Modi government has continued the same foreign policy as was envisaged by the previous United Progressive Alliance government. In a nutshell, India continues to play soft diplomacy, when it comes to countries like Myanmar and Afghanistan,” Nanda, who has authored several books on India’s foreign policy, told this writer.
Explaining further, Nanda said India does not want to disturb its military ties with Myanmar, a reason why New Delhi has so far desisted from openly criticizing the junta. India needs Myanmar’s cooperation to rein in the northeastern rebel groups operating from that country. Besides, India has invested in infrastructure projects in the neighboring country and hence, it is walking a diplomatic tightrope.
However, the China factor will haunt New Delhi if the Myanmar crisis persists for a longer period. After all, communist China could wield far greater influence over the military rulers in Naypyitaw in the long run than a democratic India can.
Jayanta Kalita is a senior journalist and author based in New Delhi. He writes on issues relating to India’s northeast and its immediate neighborhood. The views expressed are his own.
“Why Beijing Backs Myanmar Junta While Holding out Olive Branch to NLD
By The Irrawaddy 3 September 2021
A July 21 letter sent by the Communist Party of China (CPC) to the central executive committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD) circulated online recently. The letter thanked the NLD for its congratulations on the CPC’s centenary.
In early August, during a virtual meeting between the junta-appointed foreign minister U Wunna Maung Lwin and China’s ambassador to Myanmar, Chen Hai, the ambassador referred to the State Administration Council (SAC), the governing body of the military regime, as the Myanmar government but also voiced concerns over the regime’s plan to dissolve the NLD.
Many Myanmar people are puzzled why China is against the dissolution of NLD, despite the junta-appointed Union Election Commission saying the NLD must be dissolved.
Political analyst Dr. Hla Kyaw Zaw, who is based in China’s Yunnan Province, talked recently to The Irrawaddy about China’s policy towards Myanmar.
While China has recognized the SAC, it has also indicated that it doesn’t want the NLD to be disbanded. What does China mean by that?
The letter sent to the NLD conveys the Chinese government’s message to the SAC that the [NLD must not be disbanded] if the SAC wants Beijing to recognize it [as the government of Myanmar] and to continue to implement previous agreements [on Chinese investments in Myanmar]. China wants to see stability in Myanmar because it is concerned about its interests in the country.
Beijing’s strategic ambitions, the Belt and Road Initiative, can progress only when Myanmar is stable. And China knows that it cannot rely only on the Myanmar military to achieve stability in the country. So, together with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Beijing is pushing for inclusive dialogue between all parties in Myanmar.
China has raised concerns about the NLD because the party enjoys the support of the Myanmar people, despite being accused [by Myanmar’s military] of electoral fraud in the 2020 election. By protecting the NLD, Beijing is trying to touch the hearts of the Myanmar people. While anti-China sentiments are growing in Myanmar, it sends a message that China notices and respects the wishes of the Myanmar people.
The NLD sent a message to the CPC to congratulate it on its centenary. And the CPC replied thanking the NLD for its message. To what extent does that reflect current relations between the CPC and the NLD?
The CPC has departed from its usual routine lately. Its ideology is no longer that of a conventional communist party. In the past, the CPC engaged with other parties based on the ideology of social class. But, now, it has departed from ordinary communist philosophy. The party said it is searching for and inventing a Marxism for the 21st Century. It engages with all the parties around the world.
[Under the NLD government] China invited not only the NLD leaders to events in China but also the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) leaders. It invited all and exchanged political views. It tried to show them how changes can be introduced peacefully in this globalized age. The CPC focuses on pragmatism rather than theory. So it engages with the NLD and the USDP, as well as the ethnic parties. It uses soft power to improve its position on the international stage. So China developed good relations with the NLD, and the NLD also tried to improve ties with Beijing.
Why has the CPC changed?
The situation has changed a lot. In the past, Marxism was about the proletariat: industrial workers and farmers fighting capitalism. But capitalism has become globalization now. To join the globalized world, one has to join the capitalist system. That’s why China joined the World Trade Organization, because the global order is controlled by capitalists. As the US and Europe controls the global order, it joined them to reap profits. But when Beijing distributes profits in China, it distributes them based on socialism.
In January 2021, China’s President Xi Jinping said in a speech to the Davos Agenda event that China protects capitalism more than the capitalists do. Globalization has significantly boosted production and if the [profits from production] can be shared properly and systematically for the people, it is beneficial to the majority. China is attempting to replace capitalist globalization with socialist globalization. It is incorporating useful things from capitalism to create wealth for its people.
What about the CPC’s relationship, if any, with the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) which is largely comprised of NLD members? To what extent will the CPC’s relationship with the NLD influence the Chinese government?
China’s government can only function under the leadership of the CPC. All the important policies are laid down by the CPC. The CPC is the key to the foreign policies of China’s government.
Is it likely that Beijing will engage with the NUG?
I think both sides are still waiting. The NUG is seemingly reluctant to engage with China because it mainly relies on the US and other western powers for support. And China seemingly does not want to make the SAC feel uneasy. China, if possible, wants to take a neutral position as it wants to intervene impartially in conflicts between the military regime, the NLD and the other forces in Myanmar. China may engage with the NUG if the NUG gets stronger and more capable.
How will the SAC view the relationship between the CPC and the NLD?
Of course, the SAC will not like it. But my view is that the SAC needs to buy time considering the realities facing it. That’s why it has nodded to the five-point consensus proposed by ASEAN. There have been delays in the ASEAN envoy’s planned trip to Myanmar. The military has never liked the NLD. But, for the time being, it won’t disband the NLD. It will keep the party alive as China has raised concerns.
The NLD has fought the military since 1990. They have endurance. A party will cease only when it is ruined by the party members. Any party will be able to mobilize anytime if there are people who have faith in it. As long as there is injustice, a disparity between rich and poor and a lack of democracy in Myanmar, parties that have public support will continue to exist. The NLD will continue to exist even if not under the same name.
The SAC and the NUG will compete to place someone in the position of Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN) at the upcoming UN Credentials Committee. Who do you think China will support?
China has taken different approaches at the UN, depending on the time and situation in Myanmar. It is not consistent. Before 2011, during the time of the State Law and Order Restoration Council and the State Peace and Development Council in Myanmar, China used its veto at the UN to protect the then military regime. It understands that Myanmar people have negative views towards China because of that. It was aware of the need to engage with Myanmar people and so it started to engage with different groups, including the NLD.
This time, China will also take a neutral position at the UN so as not to upset the SAC or the Myanmar people. If there is a majority view among the countries at the UN meeting, China might to choose to agree with them or else it will stay neutral.
Both China and the US back the ASEAN consensus on tackling the Myanmar crisis. But there are tensions between the US and China over the South China Sea. Will the crisis put Myanmar at the center of the China-US clash?
Myanmar is trapped in the geopolitical struggle between China and the US. Since the February 1 coup, some independent Chinese analysts have claimed that western countries were behind the ousting of the NLD government because it was too close to Beijing. Some have said that when western countries took back the honorary titles given to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and criticized her over the Rohingya issue, that encouraged the military to stage the coup. Other analysts have said that anti-China sentiment is growing in Myanmar because the military is deliberately encouraging the public to hate China rather than the junta. Myanmar could end up trapped between the China and US in the same way that the Ukraine is trapped between the European Union and Russia. For example, since the Rohingya issue, China has said that the US is deliberately disrupting its Kyaukphyu deep-sea port project in Rakhine State.
But it is important for Myanmar not to be trapped in conflicts between superpowers. Myanmar people have now fully understood that Myanmar will never develop so long as it remains under military rule. That’s why people are saying they have to crush the military.
My view is that everyone should take their fair share of responsibility by taking up arms or by staging protests. We need to form an allied force that includes all the parties that don’t like the Myanmar military. No party can be left behind. It is the responsibility of all to isolate the military.