New Delhi: In a stunning turn of events, Myanmar's resistance forces have dealt a significant blow to the military junta, capturing strategic bases in a daring display of defiance. The resilient opposition has managed to seize control of key military installations, marking a pivotal moment in the struggle against authoritarian rule. As the nation watches, the balance of power in Myanmar appears to be shifting, with the resistance forces demonstrating a newfound strength and determination in their quest for democracy.
On Monday, the Chin National Army reportedly captured a junta base in Reh Khaw Da, Falam Township, a hub for border trade with India. Chin State is a state in western Myanmar. It is bordered by Sagaing and Magway Divisions to the east, Rakhine State to the south, the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh to the west, and the Indian states of Mizoram to the west and Manipur to the north.
This is the latest blow the resistance forces in India’s eastern neighbour have delivered against the ruling military junta after the launch of Operation 1027 by the Three Brotherhood Alliance. Resistance forces have now seized border towns on both sides of the country after the launch of the offensive last month. The alliance, comprising the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA), has seized dozens of townships in northern Shan State on the border with China.
“The resistance offensive has also spread to the upper Sagaing Region, where the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), AA and PDFs (People’s Defence Forces) seized the district-level town of Kawlin on November 6,” The Irrawaddy reported. “Elsewhere, Karenni resistance forces launched Operation 1107 in support of the offensive, attacking junta bases in Kayah State’s Loikaw and Mese and southern Shan’s Moebye town. Last Tuesday, the trade town of Khampat on the Indian border in Tamu Township was seized in a coordinated attack by the Chin Nationalities Defense Force, KIA and PDFs.” Tamu is on the other side of the Indian border town of Moreh in Manipur.
So, what is the Three Brotherhood Alliance?
The Three Brotherhood Alliance, also known as the Brotherhood Alliance, is an alliance between the AA, MNDAA, and the TNLA formed in June 2019. The group rose to prominence in 2023 in resisting the Myanmar junta in the wake of the 2021 Myanmar coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected President Aung Sang Suu Kyi. The three armed groups were silent about the coup initially but released a statement reaffirming the alliance's existence in March 2021. During the Myanmar civil war, the group fought mainly in Rakhine State and northern Shan State. On October 27, 2023, the alliance launched Operation 1027, an offensive against the junta in northern Shan state.
The AA is an ethnic armed organisation based in Rakhine State (Arakan). Founded on April 10, 2009, the AA is the military wing of the United League of Arakan (ULA). The MNDAA is an armed resistance group in the Kokang region. The army has existed since 1989, having been the first one to sign a ceasefire agreement with the then-Burmese government. The ceasefire lasted for about two decades.
The TNLA is the armed wing of the Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF). The TNLA is known for its opposition to drug trade, conducting operations where they actively destroy poppy fields, heroin refineries and meth labs. The TNLA claims that it arrests opium smugglers regularly and the narcotics seized are publicly burned on special occasions to deter drug trade
What is Operation 1027?
Under Operation 1027, the joint forces launched simultaneous attacks in multiple towns in northern Shan State, targeting the Myanmar Army, the Myanmar Police Force, and pro-military militia installations in Kutkai, Kyaukme, Muse, Namhkam, Nawnghkio, Lashio, and Chinshwehaw. The rebels later expanded their offensive outside Shan State to the Sagaing Region, staging attacks in Mogok, Mandalay and Htigyaing, and capturing Kawlin. By the end of November 8, the Brotherhood Alliance claimed to have captured a total of 125 army outposts across the region. Other anti-junta groups in the country, such as the PDFs, pledged their support for and participation in the operation, conducting further attacks on the regime.
On October 27, the Brotherhood Alliance issued a statement announcing the launch of the operation. The statement detailed the primary objectives of the operation: safeguarding the lives of civilians; asserting their right to self-defence; maintaining control over their territories, responding resolutely to ongoing artillery attacks and airstrikes perpetrated by the State Administration Council (military junta); eradicating the oppressive military rule; and combating the widespread online gambling fraud that has plagued Myanmar, particularly along the China–Myanmar border.
Then again, what is Operation 1107?
It is an ongoing joint military operation launched on November 7, 2023, by the Karenni National People's Liberation Front (KNPLF), Karenni Army (KA), and Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) against the military junta. It was launched in support of the concurrent Operation 1027.
The KNPLF is a Communist and Karenni nationalist insurgent group active in Kayah State, bordering China and Thailand. It agreed to become a government-sponsored border guard force in 2009 although it remains active under the name of KNPLF. Starting from June 13, 2023, it has decided to change sides to the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), KA, KNDF and PDFs and fight the military regime. The KA is the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), and operates in Kayah State. The KNDF is an armed insurgent group in Myanmar formed in response to the 2021 coup. The group contains the PDFs formed by the National Unity Government, the government in exile formed by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of elected lawmakers and members of parliament ousted in the coup.
What are the implications of the current offensive against the military junta?
On November 8, Myint Swe, Myanmar’s President appointed by the junta, warned during a National Defense and Security Council meeting that the country faces the threat of fragmentation due to Operation 1027. He further said that without effective management of the crisis in the border region the country was at risk of breaking apart, and called on the public to support the junta’s efforts to restore order.
While the Western powers like the US and the European nations are against the military junta, Russia and China have openly supported the regime. India’s approach towards Myanmar has been a constructive engagement. According to K Yhome, a fellow in the Asian Confluence think tank, if Myint Swe’s fears become a reality, the result will be disastrous for India and the region as a whole.
“India’s engagement with Myanmar has been driven by border security issues and strategic concerns over China’s growing presence in the region,” Yhome told ETV Bharat over the phone from Kohima, Nagaland. “Since the coup till now, India has been telling Myanmar to restore democracy. The best way to do that is to hold elections and have the military return to the barracks.”
What the Government of India wants is that there should be a central authority in place to hold the country together. It wants to ensure that the transition happens under the military’s watch so that the State doesn’t fall apart. “If that happens, the consequences will be disastrous,” Yhome said. So, what happens now? “Across that country, we are seeing a certain level of military success on the part of the resistance forces. The end game is still very uncertain,” Yhome said.