Myanmar 2023 – pessimism deepens

This handout photo from Myanmar’s Military Information Team taken and released on January 31, 2023 shows Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing making a speech during a defense and security council meeting in Naypyidaw. Myanmar’s junta said on January 31 the country had “not returned to normalcy” almost two years after its coup, a day before a widely-expected announcement it would hold elections. Handout / MYANMAR MILITARY INFORMATION TEAM / AFP

As the Myanmar crisis enters its third year, one trend is certain – things will get worse and bloodier.

The military junta, headed by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, has extended its emergency rule by another six months, after two years in power, citing the “extraordinary situation” that the State Administration Council has been facing. It is not difficult to decipher what Nay Pyi Taw really has in mind about the present situation in the country.

First of all, the senior general wants to stay on as the titular head. He announced his administration’s new line-up yesterday (Wednesday), comprising his colleagues from the Tatmadaw and former bureaucrats. He appointed five deputy prime ministers, each with specific areas of responsibility. In the top echelons, Hlaing wants further to consolidate his power against his No. 2 Tatmadaw colleague, Senior General Soe Win. It was a clever move to place him as one of the five deputies. New Foreign Minister U Than Shwe, who replaces outgoing Wanna Maung Lwin, is a close friend of the senior general. He is was ambassador to the US in 2012 and 2013.

Before the reshuffle, and extension of emergency rule on February 1st, there were rumours about the setting up of a new administration team, with a mixture of senior personalities from the National League of Democracy, Ethnic Armed Organisations and political parties. As it turns out, it was a pipe dream. The junta remains entrenched in its dark-tunnel vision and refusal to change.

Secondly, the junta decided to postpone the election, which was scheduled for August. At the moment, it is clear that the polls could not be held, as there are many areas controlled by the resistance forces, not to mention those under the EAOs. If the election were to be held as planned, it would prove disastrous for the regime. As such, over the coming the six-months, there will be more fighting between the Tatmadaw and the resistance as they attempt to seize control of key voting constituencies.

Thirdly, the people of Myanmar are very angry with the junta leaders, who have used all manner of cruel means to kill or subjugate their own citizens. The general public are up in arms against the regime. On the second anniversary of the coup, the people staged a silent protest. For now, they are engaging in a noble form of civil disobedience against the regime by remaining silent. The day will come when the people from all parts of the country will rise up to combat the regime again. They have done that in the past. Do not underestimate the will of the people of Myanmar.

Fourthly, the junta is being increasingly isolated by both the regional and international community. The upcoming ASEAN ministerial retreat, under Indonesia’s chairmanship, should have a clearer direction on how to engage with the junta. Already, ASEAN has banned the junta leaders from attending the ASEAN-related summits. ASEAN will now hold dialogues with all stakeholders. This new approach will impact Nay Pyi Taw in unpredictable ways, as it will further strengthen the resistance forces both domestically and abroad.

Finally, the battle inside the country is still raging. The junta has already used lots of air power to suppress the resistance forces and flush them out from their hideouts. In the past few months, the junta has conducted aerial bombings against civilian and military targets without mercy. The aim is to decapitate all hostile forces fighting the regime. In response to the senior general’s audacity, the international community will intensify their overt and covert assistance to the resistance forces.

Thailand, which shares a 2,401km frontier with Myanmar, must be well prepared for the possible influx of villagers fleeing conflict zones in the coming months. The Nay Pyi Taw regime is determined to stay in power and will defend it with brutal force. In the end, however, the will of the people of Myanmar will prevail. Against all odds, the people there are very resilient, even though they have suffered the unbearable.

By Kavi Chongkittavorn


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