Myanmar’s Uncertain Future
As Myanmar marked three years of a military coup earlier this month, after the country’s army deposed the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021, the tide seems to have turned against the Tatmadaw since the pro-democratic forces allied with the National Unity Government (NUG) and ethnic armed groups began a co-ordinated offensive across the country in October last year. The rebel groups have reportedly made a significant territorial gain in the region bordering China and other areas, as well as captured nearly 200 junta outposts, forcing dozens of soldiers, including top officials, to surrender. With their backs to the wall, the junta has resorted to air strikes and indiscriminate bombings, killing many civilians in the process. But this desperate move of the army has failed to thwart the resistance movement, and such a strategy is unlikely to work in their favour. In a civil war, the use of brute force only makes matters worse, as it has to be used against its own people. Besides thousands of civilians being killed since the coup, more than a million people have been displaced and at least 15,000 have been imprisoned for political crimes. The failure to stabilise the political situation and the inability to address the unprecedented humanitarian crisis that has unfolded since the coup is going to work against the junta. However, the Tatmadaw is unlikely to give up power, while the rebel groups — People’s Defence Force and ethnic armed groups – seem to be more determined than ever to overthrow the junta. Myanmar is caught in such an extraordinary situation and the world can’t afford to turn a blind eye to such a crisis, which could result in a human catastrophe.
As Myanmar’s future hangs in the balance, the international community should put pressure on the warring parties to cease the bloodshed and explore ways to restore peace and democracy. Sensing the implications the civil war can have on the country, particularly the Northeast region, India has called for a complete cessation of violence and a subsequent transition towards democracy through constructive dialogue. However, the world’s largest democracy has fallen short of taking the initiative to break the deadlock between the junta and the rebel groups, as have other regional and international players like ASEAN and China. A more proactive role is needed from all quarters to broker talks, the only way to stop bloodshed in the strife-torn country and to restore peace. The price of sitting on the fence and watching millions of people suffer will be huge, especially for countries sharing boundaries with Myanmar. Indifference in the face of injustice and violence is tantamount to complicity.