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Myanmar’s military junta is losing control of large swathes of territory to armed ethnic groups, according to new reports, a development that piles pressure on junta head, Gen. Min Aung Hliang, and prompts questions about the army’s ability to remain in power more than three years after it took over in a coup, Radio Free Asia reported.

A report by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) showed that the military has lost control of townships covering 86 percent of Myanmar’s territory, which is home to nearly 70 percent of the population.

The council – an independent group of international experts created after the military takeover to support the return of democracy – noted that the junta has been forced “into a defensive posture.”

Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based think tank, wrote in a separate report that the low morale within the army and the mounting losses have sparked criticism against Min, including calls to step down.

The report cautioned, however, that it is unlikely that the junta chief will be replaced because there is no institutional mechanism to remove him and the regime is packed with senior officers loyal to Min.

Violence has plagued Myanmar since February 2021 when the junta deposed the civilian government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in effect ending the country’s decade-long attempt at democratic rule – Myanmar had been previously ruled by the army since 1962.

The coup sparked mass demonstrations against the new military government which later evolved into an armed resistance movement that saw many junta opponents join the ethnic minority guerrilla groups.

Last October, some of these ethnic armies launched a coordinated offensive that saw the junta lose control of the borderlands area in the country’s north. Since then, the insurgents have pushed the junta out of other areas, including Myanmar’s border with Thailand and coastal regions along the Bay of Bengal, Reuters added.

Meanwhile, the ongoing loss of control should prompt neighboring nations and the international community to increase their engagement with the resistance groups, both reports suggested.

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