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UN Secretary-General Raises Alarm As Myanmar Conflict Escalates

Ethnic Karenni insurgents in Kayah State are now targeting the main town of Loikaw, having already captured the university on its outskirts.

Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed profound concern over the intensifying conflict in Myanmar. The UN reported that the number of displaced individuals has reached two million, prompting the secretary-general to urge all parties to safeguard non-combatants and facilitate humanitarian aid access.

A strategic alliance of three ethnic armed groups in Shan State, successfully driving out the military and police along the China border, has emboldened opposition forces across Myanmar. Ethnic Karenni insurgents in Kayah State are now targeting the main town of Loikaw, having already captured the university on its outskirts.

The People’s Defence Forces (PDFs), volunteer militias formed by local activists post the 2021 suppression of peaceful protests, have capitalised on the military’s setbacks. Although less experienced and less equipped than established ethnic armies, the PDFs have improved capabilities and often align with experienced ethnic soldiers in their fight against the ruling junta.

PDFs have recently seized the town of Kawlin in Sagaing and are actively engaging around Mandalay. The junta is losing control of the Indian border, with Ethnic Chin insurgents capturing the border town of Rikhawdar. The Arakan Army in the south has abandoned its ceasefire, attacking army and police posts, while the Karen National Union in the southeast intensifies operations against military positions along vital trade routes to the Thai border.

Despite being outgunned by the military, armed groups have stretched Myanmar’s military rulers thin. The air force’s limited capacity and the reported low morale and recruitment difficulties within the army have hampered counter-attacks. The failure to mount a response in Shan State either indicates a lack of capacity or a lack of understanding in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, of the gravity of the military’s challenge.

While the collapse of the military regime seems unlikely, the persistent pressure from the opposition may lead to negotiations. If the opposition sustains its efforts and improves coordination, factions within the junta might consider negotiating with their adversaries, a prospect thus far rejected by coup-leader Min Ang Hlaing.

Kiki Garba

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