Myanmar’s international borders in control of rebel groups: Leading Myanmarese commentator

Myanmar’s military lost a major commercial centre close to Thai-Myanmar border when the Karen National Union’s fighters took control of Myawaddy

April 14, 2024 04:25 am | Updated 04:25 am IST - NEW DELHI

File picture of Soe Myint, Editor in Chief of Mizzima News

File picture of Soe Myint, Editor in Chief of Mizzima News

Myanmar’s international borders with India, Bangladesh, China, and Thailand are now being controlled by the Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs), one of the leading Myanmarese commentators has said. Soe Myint, Editor in Chief of Mizzima News said by owning the border areas, the rebel armies of Myanmar have emerged as strategic players in South and Southeast Asia as bigger neighbours of Myanmar have to deal with them as they control the trade routes inside Myanmar.

“Myanmar will no longer be the same as it was before 2021 as the ethnic armed organisations are changing the internal configuration of Myanmar. As a result, more and more autonomous and independent regions are being carved up inside the territory of Myanmar. The situation is not yet final but the changes are becoming clear,” Soe Myint said speaking over the phone from the Thailand-Myanmar border.

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Myanmar’s military lost a major commercial centre close to Thai-Myanmar border on Wednesday when the Karen National Union’s fighters took control of the bustling township Myawaddy which is a major trading centre. The military and strategic advances of the EAOs is the result of an anti-junta struggle that started under the aegis of the anti-junta National Unity Government in 2021-22. These armed groups have been active for decades but have gained greater legitimacy because of the collaboration that they forged with the NUG leaders over the past three years.

“The rebel groups have captured fifty-two commercially important townships in almost all the provinces and regions of the country and the military junta is in control of the major cities like Mandalay, Yangon, and capital Nay Pyi Taw. It will take a dramatic development to compel the junta to come to a settlement over the major cities,” Soe Myint said. He said that already there is a growing realisation in the neighbourhood that the setbacks faced by the junta will be difficult to rectify and that the rebel groups have found space for themselves among the people as the junta’s crackdown against the masses after the February 2021 coup earned it public antipathy.

Soe Myint said that major players like India and the US have also started showing signs that the armed groups will have to be engaged in a dialogue as they are in control of large tracts of Myanmarese territory. On Friday, Counsellor Derek Chollet of the U.S. Department of State and USAID Assistant Administrator Michael Schiffer held a virtual meeting with NUG’s ‘Acting President’ Duwa Lashi La. After the interaction, NUG’s ‘foreign minister’ Zin Mar Aung said, “Both parties reiterated the prevailing circumstances and discussed the formation of coalitions with ethnic alliances and democratic forces as well as the dedicated efforts toward the establishment of inclusive and representative democratic governance.”

Soe Myint also took note of the April 10 visit to Mizoram by Abhay Thakur, the ambassador-designate of India to Myanmar, saying “The visit of Ambassador Thakur showed the fact that India is aware of the fact that they have to remember the factor of rebel forces while interacting with the junta in Myanmar.”

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