Myanmar: Military On The Back Foot As The Dry Season Comes To A Close – Analysis


By Zachary Abuza

Myanmar’s dry season is ending soon, with the military junta on the back foot after more than six months of reversals and losses to the opposition. This points to an intensification of attacks from the beleaguered regime.

With official forecasts that monsoon rains will start in the second week of June,  the State Administrative Council (SAC), as the junta is formally known, is likely to focus on six priorities before the rains set in, hampering the military’s already weak logistics and troop mobility.

While the military recently retook control over the key Thai border city Myawaddy, they have not retaken much of the territory lost since the Three Brotherhood Alliance’s Operation 1027 began in late October, especially outside of the Bamar heartland.

With the rainy season favoring the more flexible opposition, the junta is likely to focus on six strategic priorities in the coming weeks. 

The first priority is to retake control along Asia Highway 1, which connects Myawaddy with Yangon. This road is the economic lifeline to Thailand, with over $1 billion in annual border trade. 

The SAC cannot afford a repeat of Muse in northern Shan state, where junta troops still control the border town, but the Ta’ang National Liberation Army controls much of the road to Lashio, the state’s largest town, which allows the rebel group to collect taxes.

And yet, their attacks have not only faltered, but also tied down troops who are needed elsewhere.

Focus on Ann township

The second junta priority is playing out now in western Rakhine state’s Ann township, where the Arakan Army has captured two strategic outposts that protect the city after a two-month long battle.

Ann is the headquarters of the Western Military Command, one of the 12 military regions, so its loss would be hugely embarrassing for the junta. 

More importantly, Ann is a critical transportation and logistics hub, the junction for the road north to the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe and to a major  Chinese special economic zone and port project in Kyaukphyu. China’s oil and gas pipelines also pass through Ann.

In western Myanmar, the Arakan Army has already captured eight townships comprising most of northern Rakhine state, while reports are emerging that it has just captured Maungdaw, a key border port with Bangladesh, and surrounded Buthidaung.

The Arakan Army has not tried to capture Sittwe or Kyaukphyu for now, seemingly content to try to consolidate control of the roads to both. The capture of Ann would force the junta to supply what they still control in Rakhine by sea or from the south through the town of Toungup. 

In sum, without control of Ann, the chances for a significant and sustained military counteroffensive in Rakhine get a lot harder. So the military is surging reinforcements there now and stepping up airstrikes. 

The third priority for the junta is to push for a new round of ceasefire talks with the Three Brotherhood Alliance and the Kachin Independence Army. As such, it will increase its lobbying of China, which borders Kachin state.

Beijing seeks border ceasefire

Beijing clearly wants a ceasefire on its border. Both Beijing and Naypyidaw are keen to see border trade return to pre-war levels. The junta now controls only  11 of 17 border posts with China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh – and pinched trade flows have led to shortages and spiking prices. 

China has also dispatched some 300 additional technicians to Kyaukphyu as construction there ramps up, so Beijing is urgently trying to broker a ceasefire between the junta and the Arakan Army. Before any such pact is reached, we should expect a lot of fighting and air attacks before then. 

Unlike the Three Brotherhood Alliance, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is likely to reject a ceasefire, as they seek to take advantage of the military’s distractions. 

Indeed, on May 5, after a lull of several weeks, the KIA launched a second wave of attacks, capturing a number of junta camps along the Myitkyina-Laiza highway, as well as an assault on the town of Sumprabum, midway between the provincial capital and Puta-O.  The KIA has taken over 12 positions in the past four days.

The fourth priority for the junta in the coming weeks must be the resupply of its deployed forces. One of the leading factors in military defections that have taken place since October has been the military’s failure to resupply remotely deployed forces with food, water, ammunition and medical supplies.

Sustaining operations is getting much harder for the military. They have lost several of the few helicopters in their inventory. This week in eastern Myanmar The Karenni Nationalities Defense Force insurgent group said it shot down a junta military helicopter and killed its pilot in Kayah State.

Convoys under threat

With roads and bridges are increasingly being mined, and military manpower spread thin, convoys are smaller and less well protected, making opposition ambushes more costly. Captured weaponry has allowed opposition forces to target junta riverine convoys more effectively.

If the junta is unable to supply those light infantry battalions in the coming six weeks, the ethnic resistance organizations and People’s Defense Forces will pick them off one by one during the rainy season.

The fifth priority for the military regime will be to continue their assaults in Sagaing and Magwe. The heartland of the majority ethnic Bamars is arguably more important to the junta psychologically than militarily. That they do not have full control of Burmese-majority regions and have to worry about their supply lines in once-secure areas is hard for the generals to countenance. 

While the generals don’t have the means to hold territory, the junta is punishing civilians with air and artillery strikes, serving up a harsh reminder of the cost of supporting the opposition. 

The sixth junta priority is to ramp up the production of arms and munitions. There is a parallel here with Russia, which also expected a very brief war in Ukraine, and did not have its logistics or defense industries prepared for a multi-year conflict. 

Drones on both sides

The SAC is broke and cannot afford the costly import of weapons and ammunition, forcing its own defense industries to go into overdrive. 

At the same time, given the shortage of spare parts and regular servicing of their overtaxed air force, which has led to the crash of several aircraft, the military has stepped up the production of armed drones. 

The opposition National Unity Government (NUG) and the ethnic armies have used modified hobby and crop dusting drones with incredible efficacy, including an attack that purportedly wounded Soe Win the deputy junta commander. 

There is concern among the opposition that the military will be able to replicate the NUG success with cheap drones. Evidence has surfaced that the military is already fielding more lethal drone-specific munitions, rather than relying on mortar shells. 

The junta has lost significant amounts of territory since Operation 1027 began – which is notable because it happened during the dry season, when the military should have had all the advantages. The rainy season tends to benefit resistance forces. 

Along with the scorching heat, expect blistering, brutal attacks, as the military junta desperately tries to retake lost territory and critical supply lines before the rains set in. 

Zachary Abuza is a professor at the National War College in Washington and an adjunct at Georgetown University. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Defense, the National War College, Georgetown University or Radio Free Asia.


Radio Free Asia’s mission is to provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press. Content used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.

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