Burmese Military Junta Reels Under Fresh Rebel Offensive – OpEd


Even as China managed to bring the three-group Brotherhood Alliance to the table and reports emerged of a limited understanding thos week between them and Burmese military junta, the powerful Kachin Independence Army ( KIA) and its allies launched a major offensive in Kachin State on Wednesday , attacking military camps near its Laiza headquarters in Waingmaw Township, as well as in Momauk and Myitkyina townships.

KIA spokesperson Colonel Naw Bu told mediapersons that the National Unity Government-aligned Kachin Region People’s Defence Force and the Arakan Army are fighting alongside the KIA. “These operations are not related to Operation 1027. We carried them out based on our own plans,” Colonel Bu told mediapersons.

The Burmese military retaliated with  its usual  bombing civilian areas in and around Laiza.  Laiza residents say that at least three bombs fell into Chinese territory during airstrikes this weekend and many on Kachin villages around Laiza . Atleast five deaths were confirmed by them. The casualties on the Chinese side were not known as  Beijing has not commented on the issue so far.

The junta-aligned Lisu People’s Militia leader Shwe Min was killed by the KIA in Waingmaw Township on Friday morning, Colonel Naw Bu confirmed . He said that Shwe Min was killed alongwith  three of his troops near Hkashi village when the KIA Brigade 5 ambushed a LPM convoy.

The LPM is a staunch junta ally, and the death of its leader could deliver a significant blow to its morale, or inflame ethnic tensions. Shwe Min moved closer to the junta after the Feb 2021 coup and his troops have occasionally fought alongside the regime against the KIA, mostly in Waingmaw.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance and the junta held a dialogue last week mediated by China in Kunming city. Both sides confirmed the talks this week, but they have been tight-lipped about what was discussed.

Junta spokesperson Major-General Zaw Min Tun confirmed the talks had taken place to the military newspaper Myawady. He said Myanmar’s sovereignty “is still intact” and that the management of the border gates with China remains in the hands of the junta and the Chinese government, but did not comment on earlier reports that it will share their revenue with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.

A statement posted on the Northern Alliance website, which includes the Brotherhood plus the KIA, said the junta had agreed to recognise the MNDAA as the authority of the Special Region 1 in northern Shan State. However, BBC Burmese quoting local sources claimed this development isn’t official yet.

 According to the sources, the regime asked the MNDAA to withdraw from some unspecified positions as a precondition to discussing the possibility of recognising its authority in the Special Region 1.

The Brotherhood officially confirmed the meeting , saying it took place on Thursday and Friday. The statement didn’t provide details of what was discussed beyond saying it was focused on reviewing the ceasefire in northern Shan agreed on January 11 and discussing its implementation. 

The Brotherhood also warned that the junta’s declaration of martial law in three townships in northern Shan could jeopardise the ceasefire. The junta had imposed martial law in Mantong, Namhsan and Namtu townships on Monday, all of which were seized by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army during Operation 1027. 

Calling the declaration a “threat to the public”, the Brotherhood said it could undermine negotiations.

If the China-sponsored talks fail to deliver a relatively stable truce, the junta appears to be on verge of loosing a huge swathe of territory in northern Myanmar bordering China which will jeopardise Beijing’s lucrative border trade and may push it to deal directly with the Northern Alliance. 

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a former BBC and Reuters correspondent and author of books on South Asian conflicts.

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