The World Today for February 21, 2024


A Popular Resistance


In Nam Hpat Kar in northern Myanmar, a towering golden Buddha statue stands above the wreckage of civil war. Much of the village is now rubble after the central government fired heavy artillery and launched air strikes against rebels in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), who claim they captured the village last month.

“From where I was hiding I heard the sounds of fighter jets flying overhead and I thought our village … will be destroyed completely,” local resident Nann May said in an Agence France-Presse interview.

It’s not clear how long the military junta, which has been running the country under army Gen. Min Aung Hlaing since a coup three years ago, can maintain the pace of destruction, however. As World Politics Review explained, Myanmar’s path to democracy was troubled before the coup, but it was progressing under Noble Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her allies until 2021.

The burgeoning conflict with multiple ethnic militias and pro-democracy forces since then has exacted a heavy price on Myanmar, a poor country in South Asia that was formerly called Burma.

First, as the East Asia Forum noted, rebels have hurt trade with China and forced the central government to increase military spending unsustainably – at the cost of undermining basic but vital public services.

Second, Myanmarese soldiers are suffering from terrible morale and failing supply chains, the Washington Post reported. Mass surrenders have occurred as commanders have failed to resupply and reinforce their troops. Rebels have seized more than 400 army bases and around 35 towns in the country since October, added France 24. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that more than 100 members of Myanmar’s border police forces have taken refuge in Bangladesh.

In what looks like a desperate move that could escalate tensions further, the regime recently issued an order to draft young men and women into the army, wrote the New York Times.

“National defense is not the sole responsibility of the soldier,” said military spokesman Gen. Zaw Min Tun. “I would like to ask everyone to serve with pride and joy.”

But citizens of Myanmar told Nikkei Asia that they would rather injure themselves so they could claim they were unfit for service rather than join the junta’s army.

Others from affluent families said they could likely bribe their way around conscription. Still, others said they were considering becoming monks who were exempt from fighting. Those who said they had no money or other ways to avoid the draft pledged to become informers or saboteurs who would damage the military from the inside.

Min Aung Hlaing is under intense pressure to resign, reported Reuters. Pro-government YouTubers are calling for his exit, a criticism that would have been unthinkable a few months ago. But then so was a strike on the third anniversary of the coup recently, commentators said, that left the streets of Yangon silent.

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