Myanmar: 3 years on, junta still struggling for power

Three years after seizing power, Myanmar’s junta, led by Min Aung Hlaing, is facing significant challenges in asserting control, marked by recent losses and growing criticism from pro-military figures. Social media images depict seized weapons, exhausted soldiers surrendering, and even a downed military jet. The junta has lost key territory in the north along the China border and in the west near the Indian border, while facing persistent resistance elsewhere.

Pro-military commentators on social media have expressed dissatisfaction with the leadership. An ultranationalist monk called for Min Aung Hlaing’s resignation, highlighting internal dissent. Myanmar has been in conflict since the 2021 coup, leading to street protests and the emergence of armed resistance against military oppression.

Various groups, including people’s defense forces (PDFs) aligned with the National Unity Government (NUG) and ethnic armed groups, oppose the junta. The Brotherhood Alliance, consisting of experienced ethnic armed groups, launched successful operations against the junta, influencing renewed offensives in other areas. China, frustrated with the junta, tacitly approved the Brotherhood Alliance’s operation but later emphasized the need for stability.

The NUG claims 60% of the country is controlled by opponents of the junta, but measuring control is complex due to the fluid nature of the conflict. While the military faces unprecedented battlefield challenges, analysts caution against underestimating its resilience. Reports suggest growing frustration at the military leadership, but Min Aung Hlaing’s ousting remains unlikely due to the military’s entrenched institutional culture.

Despite internal challenges, the alternative to the current leadership could bring more violence. Troops are demoralized, and brutal campaigns have strained recruitment efforts. Internal dissent, external pressures, and the persistence of anti-junta forces have created a complex and evolving situation in Myanmar.

The junta’s struggle for control is exacerbated by a range of factors, including internal dissent, external pressures, and the tenacity of anti-junta forces. Reports indicate that at senior levels, there is a growing frustration with the military leadership, as evidenced by recent losses and challenges in recruitment.

The internal dynamics within Myanmar’s military pose a significant hurdle to any potential change in leadership. The military’s institutional culture, cultivated over seven decades, has entrenched a hierarchical and feudal system with the top leader, currently Min Aung Hlaing, in the most powerful position. Despite the reported discontent among troops and lower-ranking officials, the likelihood of a leadership change remains slim. Even if such a change were to occur, concerns persist that an alternative leadership could resort to even more violent measures.

The ongoing conflict in Myanmar has taken a toll on the military, with reports of demoralized and exhausted soldiers. The brutal campaigns launched across the country, particularly in Bamar-majority heartland areas, have not only weakened the military’s standing but have also made recruitment challenging. A recent defector attested that many soldiers wish to leave, indicating a decline in loyalty toward the military leadership.

Simultaneously, the anti-junta forces, comprising various groups such as PDFs and ethnic armed groups, have displayed resilience and effectiveness in countering the junta’s attempts to assert control. The Brotherhood Alliance’s successful operations have not only shifted the dynamics in the north but have also boosted morale among pro-democracy resistance groups elsewhere.

The complex and fluid nature of the conflict makes it challenging to accurately assess territorial control. The NUG claims a significant percentage of the country is under the control of anti-junta forces, but the situation is characterized by mixed control and contestation, subject to change over time.

In the midst of these developments, concerns persist about the impact on civilians, who continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. The UN reports that approximately two-thirds of the country remains gripped by conflict, highlighting the humanitarian toll of the ongoing struggle for control in Myanmar.

As Myanmar approaches a critical juncture, with over three years of junta rule and mounting challenges to its authority, the situation remains highly volatile. The international community continues to monitor the situation closely, but finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict remains elusive, given the entrenched interests and complex dynamics at play within Myanmar.

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